So, just who is welcome in a church? I mean really. That is always a very tough thing to deal with when you start talking about real life, is it not? Even in a church like ours that stresses the desire to welcome in all types of people, junk in tow, to find healing through the resurrection power of Christ. The question we have to answer is do we really mean it, because if we do, it opens us up to all sorts of unpleasantries.
It seems to me that Jesus was the master of welcoming the most outrageous lifestyles. He was friends with prostitutes, thieves, liars, cheats, adulterers and no telling how many more that aren’t even recorded. The problem seems to be that we’re not Jesus and we’re not very good with drawing the line between accepting the individual without giving the lifestyle a pass or, to the other extreme, focusing so much on the lifestyle/character flaws that we fail to accept the individual.
I think the main cause of this problem within churches is at least two-fold (maybe others, but at least two): On the one hand, we’re lousy communicators. We don’t seem to be able to communicate truth in love. We don’t know how to separate the “who” from the “what” of an individual. Who someone is is not the sum-total of what they do. Jesus was exceptional at differentiating the two and drawing the “who” of someone is out, leading them into becoming all they could be, no longer being victimized by what they did. We don’t seem to be able to do that very well. The solution? I think it’s honesty. We have to care enough about people to honestly tell them the truth in such a way that they are not shamed in the process. Really, who among us is above the shame of our own sins to such a degree that we feel self-righteous enough to shame another?
The other comes in the form of liking our safe-haven where we feel like we can escape the miserable world to such a degree that we’ll go to any extent to maintain our “fortress of solitude.” We sure don’t want to invite it in and, thereby, dirty up God’s church. Is it not the case, though, that when we fail to invite the world in that we are, in reality, then dirtying up Christ’s church? Are not those the very ones that Christ focussed on while He was here? He called the religious establishment “white-washed tombs” because they dressed up the outside yet failed to authentically love and serve Him. At other times, He talks of taking the Kingdom from such as these and giving it to those considered outcasts.
I admit that these are extremely unpopular ideas among many modern-day evangelicals, but who really cares? It’s time to call a spade a spade and face up to the fact that we have so abused the Church of Jesus Christ by making it into a kingdom of our own liking, that we completely ignore the mission He called us to. Perhaps I am being overly harsh, but when I think back on Christ’s attitude towards the self-righteous religious people, I don’t know that I am.
Perhaps you’ll have to pardon my rant, but the reality is our churches are filled with arrogance and pride. No wonder we are losing our influence in the world. If we’re ever going to become the beautiful bride of Christ that reflects His glory and majesty, we had better figure out how to welcome in all walks of life, loving them with an honest compassion without signing off on what they do. We had better come to a place of brokenness and repentance before a holy God who called us out of the world (in holiness only) to be a place of hope and refuge for those in the world, victimized by Satan’s sinful ploy.
These are very real issues for any church that is getting serious about the idea of the church as a hospital that is full to the rim (including the Pastor!) with sick people needing healing from the Master Physician. As we’re finding out first-hand in our church, when you make that claim, the broken and bleeding, so to speak, start pouring in. What do you do? Who comes in and who is just too sick to be allowed in? Who is so ill that they just might contaminate the other patients?
All I know is this: “Come to me all who labor and are heavy-ladened and I will give you rest…” ~Jesus
I only know of one definition for “all.”