One of the biggest challenges to Christianity that I have noticed is battling through the misrepresentations of the faith made by Christians themselves. Time and again, I’ve heard non-Christians complain about the judgement they’ve felt when encountering the church. I’ve heard stories of being asked to leave or made to feel uncomfortable because they were not wearing the right clothes, speaking the right language, living the right life, displaying the right attitude, etc. When people encounter a place where they feel unwelcome, it becomes doubly hard to ever get them to venture back. Christians are in the habit of putting up roadblocks to salvation and a relationship with Jesus, the opposite of the mission we’ve been entrusted with. The biggest obstacle to faith is often Christians themselves. What is going on?
Jesus made a beeline to the most unwashed and unwanted. He was God incarnate and was utterly comfortable with those the least like him. The sinners and societal rejects were his bread and butter.
Who in today’s terms meets that criteria? The prostitute or porn addicted husband? The guy with all the tattoos or the girl who maybe isn’t as modest as we’d like? What about the husband whose every other word has only four letters? Are the homeless guys who smell badly or the chain smoking teenagers welcomed? The dad with the holes in his t-shirt and stains on his jeans, does he get in? What about the openly homosexual, can they come? Do they feel welcome?
Is there a line we draw in the sand at our doorsteps or do we openly embrace all that we are blessed to share Christ with? Can we honestly say we are emulating our savior when we look down our noses at those who are different than us? Or who sin differently than us?
Jesus never said “change and then follow me”, that was the Pharisees. Jesus was known to repeatedly say “follow me and then you’ll change”. Maybe it’s us that need the change more than anything. Maybe our own pride and close-mindedness are the bigger problem. Maybe, just maybe, the prostitute should be looking down her nose and asking us to leave?
I may catch some flack for this next idea, but you know what, I don’t care. If you’ve been asked to leave or made to feel anything but loved in a church, give them a second chance. If that doesn’t work, give them the finger from me (you’ve already been rejected, it can’t do any more harm) and find some real Jesus followers to hang with. I know my church and many, many others cannot wait for you to stroll through our doors so that we can wrap our arms around you and tell you how happy we are to see you. We are by no means perfect or better, we are sinners too, but we ache to be more like Jesus so we are getting better.