Sinners and Saints
When you join the church you may finally feel as though you belong. After twisting and turning in the winds of the world, you finally feel at peace under the wing of the King. You may feel that sense of belonging and peace for the first time in years, or in your life, as you fall into a family of like-minded believers. You may feel you are finally saved from the world, and feel hope that there is hope for the rest of the sinners out there. They may be your family. They may be your friends.
For some reason, though, we continuously have difficulties with cultivating the family ties in our churches. We so often can look through our congregations and point out the individual people or families that are “rocking the boat.” Maybe there is talk of a “bad apple” or maybe even a joke or two about a “badventist.” Hopefully your church isn’t vocal about the black sheep, but as a church, we need to be mindful about how we classify our members.
I’ve seen more and more in pop culture the idea of a “black sheep” or “crazy uncle” in the depiction of families. Unfortunately I see this same thing in too many of our Christian churches.
The World in the Church
The black sheep in a family is often someone who messes up. Maybe they’re in prison–maybe they dropped out of school in a family full of do-gooders. It seems there is always someone that doesn’t quite fit in. They may not get the family photo at Christmastime. They may not receive an invitation to the Big Day. They may be forgotten over time and distance.
This happens in our churches.
Though we’re all a part, maybe all members, all children of God, some often mess up. It seems the reasons why we can fall into “second class citizen” category are endless, and range from unpaid tithe to unwed pregnancy and more. These things shouldn’t keep us out of church functions, but sometimes do.
It does the church a grave disservice when people are excluded. We should evaluate ourselves from time to time, both individually and as a church.
What would Jesus do?
I have actually witnessed a pastor refuse certain ceremonies inside the sanctuary, but would do so in a home or in a gym. I would ask the question: is God any less present in the alternate locations? Is the the ceremony any less holy?
I have witnessed arguments about having a baby shower in a church for an unwed mother. Alternate locations could be suggested, like a home, a community center, etc. Again, I would ask: Is God any less present outside the church?
I have seen unwed pregnancy included in a church board discussion (my own pregnancy, for instance).
I have heard with my own ears church members wishing to exclude youth from Pathfinder events because they live in a dangerous neighborhood, or because they have a physical handicap that makes participation difficult.
Just this past October, I was disappointed to hear a fellow homeschool-mom condemn a local family farm for allowing a public school to visit on the same day the homeschoolers did.
The sin of the world cannot rub off on us if we get too close, especially if we have the heart of Jesus.
On the contrary, we cannot lose. By loving all, we show them God’s love, and we cannot lose.
What would Jesus do? Jesus meets us where we are. He is present wherever we need Him to be, and we as mere humans cannot remove others from His presence.
There will be no second-class citizens in the Kingdom. Let’s each be mindful of how we treat others in our congregations and communities. It’s our responsibility to share Love.
God’s Love is First-Class.