There are people who have always enjoyed posting those kinds of signs in the church. They have imposed dress codes. They have chosen musical styles that are foreign to young people, a sign that says "Not Welcome." They have suggested, or in some cases demanded, that you have your act together before you are welcome at church. The church is no place for sinners, their signs would say. We often go out of our way to say that riff-raff are not welcome, and then we define what riff-raff is (see my vintage post, Blessed Are the Riff-Raff). Some of our churches are uncomfortable with people of color. Some of them are quick to exclude gays. Some refuse to give women equal treatment. Some churches infer that you must have a certain political view before you are welcome. And some are quick to turn away people just like me. People with public sin in their past. People who have failed for all to see. We may not hang actual signs in our churches, but the messages are clear nonetheless. You are not welcome here!
The sad part is that when we reject the riff-raff, we reject Jesus. When we reject entire groups, we reject Jesus. When we make church uncomfortable and foreign to young people, we reject Jesus. He said he came to hang out with the rejects of this world, and then he did. Jesus didn't just ignore the signs, he tore them down and stomped on them. And he called us to do the same. He said the greatest commandment was to love God and to love each other. He told us to love our neighbor and then pointed out to those listening that EVERYONE (including those nasty Samaritans!) is our neighbor. The final verse of Signs is one that has always given me hope and comfort. It reminds me of what the church can and should be- the one place where there are no signs of exclusion and rejection. The lyrics are as follows:
And the sign said "Everybody welcome
Come in, kneel down and pray"
But when they passed around the plate at the end of it all
I didn't have a penny to pay
So I got me a pen and a paper and I made up my own little sign
It said "Thank you, LORD for thinking about me
I'm alive and doing fine!"
It's time for every church to become "The Friendly Little Church On the Corner where the doors swing wide to welcome!" What signs does your church need to take down? Enjoy this muical blast from the past, and remember- the church could do with a few more radicals. A few more Jesus Freaks...
Because Of Jesus,