In the last post I mentioned John 4 as how we should respond to people in a personal way. I also think that passage, along with Jesus’ response to Mary pouring perfume on his feet in John 12, is a perfect model for how the church is to respond to, well…everybody. Let me put it this way: if people down on their luck don’t feel like they can come to church and be accepted, then where in the world can they go? Church is not a perfect institution. It is a center for sinners run and managed by sinners, and yet we act like there are certain people below us. Who are we to look down upon anybody? When did we become so pure? We aren’t so special because Jesus Christ has given us a free gift of grace. We’re not different than anybody else.
What about “sinful” folk? There was this really cool thing at my old church. There was a former exotic dancer who was a member. She taught my Sunday school class one year. She was very nice, very attractive. She used her past as a ministry and took other women from the church with her, going to nightclubs and doing their best to get these girls out of that lifestyle (if they so desired). I would be surprised if a lot of other churches are doing this. I feel like these girls would only be met at church with raised eyebrows.
But honestly, I don’t want perfect people in my church. They don’t need it. If you go to church on Sunday you do realize (don’t you?) that you’re making the statement, “I can’t do this on my own.” But if some really different people suddenly entered the doors saying the same thing, I don’t know that we would accept them. Why am I skeptical? Because I’ve heard parents in churches past voice concerns about kids visiting who were dressed in black or had black nail polish on. “Are these kids going to be hanging out with our children? I don’t know how I feel about that.” Good job, you just ostracized that kid before he or she ever set foot in the building, and that’s despicable. Because people need love and acceptance. They need somebody to hold them and say, “Hey, it’s okay. I’m here for you.” People don’t need a schmuck who offers a tract or a memory verse. That’s not how Christ did it at all. He always started with a compassion for the person’s brokenness and a love for them that accepted them just as they were.
Do you realize how beautiful it would be if a hooker knew she could walk into a church just the way she is and be welcomed with open arms because the Church is a place where anyone is welcome? And then how great would it be if a family invited her over to the house for lunch afterwards? But I don’t know if that would happen. I feel like a lot of churches would respond, “Um, you need to get some things in order before you come in like that.” That’s not acceptance. That’s preservation of a distorted, self-righteous comfort zone and a mission which is anything but aligned with a focus like Christ’s.
The question I always ask myself when at a new church is this: would a drug addict, alcoholic, hooker, homosexual, homeless person, or just a guy having a really lousy day look at this place and say, “Now, that is a place of love. I know I can go there and be accepted,” and willingly walk through the doors? I wonder…
What does the Church (and you, since you’re part of it) need to do to begin communicating this acceptance?