It’s Sunday morning.
Greeters are at the door. People are walking in to the church building. Most are familiar faces and friends. As on many Sundays, there are a few visitors, who are warmly welcomed and guided to wherever they need to be. Then, two men enter the building door. You move to greet them. But, one of your fellow greeters puts his hand on your shoulder, leans in and quietly says, “Uh, these guys were holding hands as they crossed the parking lot.”
The next reaction is critical. We’ll get back to that.
There was a time when I was a bit uncomfortable around gay people. It was a combination of my own discomfort mixed with a legalistic mindset. While I served in the Navy, I knew a few gay men. Most were simply good sailors serving their country. However, I did meet a young man who made a disgusting and rude pass at me.
My reaction? I grabbed him by the shoulders, put him down to the ground and told him to never talk to me like that, again. He found the whole thing funny. I, at the time, did not. But, knowing what I know now, I could have handled that better. Had I just seen he was actually harmless, rather than getting on my high horse, a simple ‘no’ would have sufficed.
No one was hurt, but my behavior was wrong. Looking back at other instances, I know I have cast judgment on others, whose life choices went against my self-righteous grain. Maybe not in words, but surely in attitude. Much of this has changed, in me, and I pray the Lord to continue to change me. One needed change is proven when I am driving. For some reason, when I get behind the wheel, the dashboard often becomes a good place to bang a gavel. Yes, I still have a long way to go.
Yeah, being human is difficult, sometimes. Well…often. Okay, it can suck.
So, back to those two guys. There are a few ways their visit would be handled.
- Welcome them, but encourage them to take a seat in the rear of the sanctuary.
- Quickly grab hand sanitizer after shaking their hand, so you don’t “catch” their sin.
- Put on your best Christian grin and suggest they might be more comfortable at the Episcopalian church down the street.
- I was present when one pastor was “inspired” to preach against homosexuality when a visitor happened to be a lesbian.
Yet, there are people like those from Oasis Church in Scotch Plains, NJ, who choose to be undaunted by the ways people live. They love people, right where they are. There are other people like them, for sure. They choose to be more like Jesus. Here is a blog post of a super example about a group of women who went to visit women who are shunned by Church and much of society…justajesusfollower.com/2016/05/09/i-went-to-a-strip-club/
People need to be accepted. People need love. We need to come to a point where we are undaunted by what we see in people. It is too easy to judge. It gives a feeling of superiority. But, love does not seek personal superiority.
The love that Jesus taught and lived is unconditional. He didn’t make a fuss over anyone’s life choices, their actions or how they were esteemed by the religious leaders. Well, He had no small words for those religious leaders, but they were the ones keeping people under condemnation, rather than leading them to God and His grace.
Jesus didn’t bring up or make issue of sins/life choices or a lot of things. Why? John 3:17 says, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world…”. Both Matthew and Mark recorded Jesus saying, “…the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life…”.
He was not here to create a new religion, but to deny the power of the religion that had been developed. That religion condemned people. I don’t know about you, but I do not want to be in the condemnation business, anymore. To condemn is, essentially, anti-Christ. I have done it too many times – I may not have usually said judgmental things out loud, but certainly harbored them in my attitudes. I sometimes avoided certain people, as I was taught that the “world” could only drag me down with them.
Wait…what? Jesus hung out with “sinners”, right? Why can’t I?
Well, He is Jesus, after all. He could do that. I could never do that. Or, could I?
His Spirit dwells within me. This does not give me the license to hang out with just anyone, but whoever is within my sphere of influence or whomever He brings to my path. “They” do not have the power to take me away from Jesus. “Greater is He Who is in me…” Because of Him, I have within me His love to share.
I want to keep sharing what I have been learning about love…as we walk together.