I stewed over what I should title this week’s column for a few days before working up the courage to push my pen and write it.
Most of you know I am very outspoken about my faith. If you haven’t noticed by now… I’m a pastor’s kid. This is a title I didn’t necessarily want for years, but now wear like a badge of honor.
I grew up in church and have been exposed to “church culture” since childhood. Like most kids raised in church, I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to “church people.” Honestly, I think traits tend to get passed down from congregation to congregation over the span of years, decades, centuries even. It is when these “traits” and “traditions” hinder… that the church often hurts folks the most. It is during these times that I feel the most disheartened.
In lieu of impending offense, let me clarify what I mean when I use the term “traits” and “traditions.” I’m not criticizing hymnals and offering plates. The good Lord knows I value and appreciate sentiments of respect that are timeless. Instead I’m talking about our “attitudes” and our “iron clad” agendas.
“They can’t come in here like that.”
“They don’t sing like us.”
“They don’t read scripture like us.”
“They don’t look like us.”
I feel in my heart that all of our ministries will look different. If we take into consideration the path that Jesus took when he first emerged it wasn’t familiar or traditional in comparison to what the Scribes and Pharisees thought was appropriate or even logical.
In a world full of division, doubt, malice, and hatred one might think the church and its people would be a haven for “sinners” since essentially that’s what we all are, yet often it’s the exact opposite.
There’s plenty of room on the pews of all of our OUR churches for all kinds of kinds. If we continue to lose sight of this, I fear we will suffer grave consequences. I would hate to be so self-righteous that I blocked the warmth of the sun from a cloud of my own creation.
Am I asking you to change your beliefs? No.
Am I asking you to change your hearts? Yes.
How do any of us ever expect non-believers to accept Christ if we set expectations on those who need him the most. None of us are so holy that we lack the need for grace. Aren’t we all beggars and thieves in need of it just the same?
A wise person once shared with me that grace is messy – and I didn’t understand the phrase. It makes a great deal more sense to me now. None of us will ever live a sinless life.
So regardless how Christ is presented I pray those who linger in hopes to hear HIS message are embraced, loved, and welcome. Christianity isn’t some sort of club you join after you agree to carry a card indicating membership. There isn’t a uniform or a church manual to reference.
There is however a decree to love without condition. There’s also a book although it serves us best as a road map. As followers of Christ we’re all on different journeys with the same destination. This Sunday I hope you find room on your pew for someone who doesn’t look like you, think like you, vote like you, or have the same dreams as you.
We’re ALL in need of the same God, and what a good one HE is!