Sunday, June 28, 2015

Kissing Frogs

The events of the last few weeks- particularly the reaction to the Supreme Court ruling and the tragic killings in Charleston- have left me remembering the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. I was struck during those games by the incredible diversity of the Olympic community and by their inclusiveness. Race, religion, nationality, sexual preference and politics were set aside for a fortnight as thousands of athletes pursued their dreams and goals. Even though they were in competition with one another, there was a spirit of unity. The spirit of acceptance and inclusion was truly incredible, and this week those memories have had me pondering this question- How can the Church be more like that? How do we follow Jesus without shutting the door on the world?

The first thing we need to is let go of our Better Bes. In his book Just Walk Across the Room, Bill Hybels writes that most Christians are willing to be accepting of others as long as they meet our list of things they had "better be." They had better be clean and polite. They had better be people who look like us. They'd better be ready to sing the songs we like to sing. They had better be people who vote for the right political party and come from the right background. They had better be against all the right things and for all the right things. In other words, we want the new people in our churches to be just like the old people- just like us! This is not inclusion, this is a selection process. Instead of listening to people, hearing their stories and investing in their lives, we judge based on what we think we know. And we shut them out. You may say "my church doesn't turn anyone away."  You do not have to ask someone to leave to let them know they are not wanted. Our attitudes speak volumes.

Jesus gave the church a very different model of responding to people, one that we often choose to ignore. Jesus had no list of Better Bes. Instead, he invested in the lives of those he met to the point that he turned them into Used To Bes. Think about it. Peter and Andrew used to be fishermen. Matthew and Zaccheus used to be tax collectors. Mary Magdalene used to be a woman with a bad reputation. Bartholomew used to be blind. Lazarus used to be DEAD! In fact, we all used to be dead until Jesus went to the cross for us. He didn't care what we looked like. He didn't care about our theology. He didn't care about our politics. He gave us one great commandment- LOVE GOD AND LOVE PEOPLE- and then gave his life so that we might live. It's like we were all frogs waiting to become princes and princesses, and Jesus had to kiss every stinking one of us. And he did- not to change us, but because he loves us. And because of that love, we all have the opportunity to become Used To Bes by simply following him.  

So how can the Church become more loving, accepting and inclusive? It's really not a difficult answer, although we seem to have a great deal of trouble doing it. We need to follow the Great Commandment. We need to open our hearts and our doors and love everyone, ESPECIALLY those who are not like us. We must reach out to the lost, the hurting and the helpless. We have to reach out to those who feel separated from God's love- for any reason. It is time to realize that we are all Used To Bes, and that Jesus built his church just for us. And then we must become HIS church, and do the work we are called to do. And what is the task of the church? To kiss frogs, of course...

Because of Jesus,

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