I am a sinner. A jerk who daily struggles with lust, pride, envy and anger. What is worse is that I’m also a Pharisee. I follow strict laws of moral conduct; I don’t drink, smoke, do drugs, gamble, swear, etc. and despite my being raised to believe in the inherent goodness and equality of people I feel this entitles me to look down on people. Waiting until marriage I look at people who have premarital sex with equal parts contempt and envy. And yet… this is who I am. This is who Jesus died for. This is who he loves, warts and all, and is changing into a better person on a daily basis when I give him control of my life. So the question I have for you is do you want me in your church?
I know I am not alone in this struggle. I also know that when we look down on other people it’s really us battling our own inner demons. The problem is that when I go to church or converse with most of my friends they’re presented with ‘Christian Darryn.’ With ‘Christian Darryn’ everything is sunshine and lollipops all the time, nothing bad ever happens, and my faith is never shaken. The only problem is he’s not real. I, like everyone who is being honest with themselves, battle with hurts and hang ups and long for a place to be honest and rest. This used to be called Church. Now it’s called therapy.
For those of you who don’t know Salvation Army history very well, it was never intended to be a church. It was always a Christian organization, meant to clean people up and set them on the right path toward God as they dealt with the issues that plagued them. Initially it was believed that once the gamblers, alcoholics, prostitutes, etc. began reforming their ways they would be welcome back to their churches with open arms. What happened was that the doors were slammed in their faces. So the founder William Booth started his own church. It was filled with every type of untouchable he could find, very much like the island of misfit toys. It reflected the first group of Jesus’ followers. People from all different walks of life, current and former addicts, sinners all, banding together to make sense of their life and the world. Now look at the churches we go too.
Being welcoming is not just about homosexuality but sharing God’s message to everyone who will listen, even if it makes you uncomfortable. It saddens me to be seeing The Salvation Army dying, but in my short life I have seen that gradual progression in my own denomination and other churches.
We’ve gone from winning souls for Christ to raising our kids in Sunday School and hoping they will stick with it when they get older. Of course we welcome everyone into our sanctuary as long as they are ‘church people.’ Those who look, act, think, speak and smell the right way are welcomed happily, the rest are tolerated. This is not an indictment of all churches, but too many have I gone to where I would be uncomfortable taking friends. Too often have I heard that drug and alcohol treatment clients would spook the horses as it were. Much can be said of different worship styles and theology but ultimately people want a place to come with their questions and burdens. A place to belong.
I’m thinking of a church. This is a very big church with a lot of people in it. There is every race and colour here, intellectuals and the mentally ill. There are unwed teenage mothers, prostitutes (both former and current), families with children and people devoted to a life of celibacy. Men, women, and everyone else comes here to worship. We have biblical scholars and people who are 99% sure that there is no God but come to hear otherwise. The rich and the poor, teatottlers and addicts, miserable and spiteful human beings and the cheeriest fun-loving people you’d ever want to meet. Those who were born in the Christian faith and those who have no idea what Good Friday even is.
Everyone is here for three reasons.
1. To support one another in love.
2. To work more on themselves and become better people.
3. To learn more about Jesus.
It is messy and chaotic and maddening and there are times we feel like we are falling apart at the seams and yet God keeps us together. To live authentically and see things truly, providing and protecting one another. Not a ‘gay church’ or a ‘straight’ church but just a place of peace that actively goes out in the community and drags people in off of the street who want to come. Have you seen this church? If so, let me know. I’ve been looking for it a long time.
Galatians 3:28 says “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” The path to salvation is narrow enough without our help, we need to get out and talk to those people who make our skin crawl because that is what we were commanded to do. Despite being generally perceived by friends as a loving and kind person I do believe my judgemental attitude must have hindered someone’s walk with God at one point or another. This makes me physically sick to my stomach. I don’t have a monopoly on God or faith, and just because I don’t agree with how someone lives their life it does not mean that I have any right to sit in judgement or keep the redeeming message of Jesus from them. This will be my daily prayer and I hope you will join me.