What if...the church really started accepting people who were genuine as the only "members" of the church? Would you be among that number? Would you be free to be exactly who you are right there in the midst of others who are being just who they are? In most churches today, we aren't too excited about others being very "human" in our midst. If we were totally honest here, we aren't too comfortable being "human" around a whole bunch of people we may feel a little "judged" by - right? So, I wonder how much we are willing to rise up to the challenge to "get real" in our local church - to actually stop being the hypocrites we can all be (me included) and just get real with God, self, and others? Quite a challenge - but one which may just have advantages unrealized by a great multitude!
We have many parts in one body, but the parts don’t all have the same function. In the same way, though there are many of us, we are one body in Christ, and individually we belong to each other. (Romans 12:4-5 CEB)
We are all many different individuals, complete with our own individual backgrounds. We were raised differently, in different regions of the world, and even under different rules by which we were to live our lives. We might have had parents who did a good job helping us grow up into maturity, while others of us hopped around from foster home to foster home, barely keeping ourselves intact emotionally through it all. Some of us might have chosen wise paths and friendships, growing stronger and more like a pillar in the community; while others may have "hung with the wrong crowd" or been forced into choices they didn't know would end up in such desperate states. Regardless of where we have been, we are all going to need to be accepted for where we were on our journey to where we are heading in Christ Jesus.
Now, if we were free to be "human" in our churches, I imagine:
- The prostitute could arrive on our doorstep, attired in her "Sunday best", and find a seat next to the little older lady with the blue hair. I see her gnarled aging hand reaching out and wrapping itself around the brightly colored salon nails of the woman next to her. In quite acceptance, they sit there at peace for what may have been the first time in quite a long time for that "woman of the night" who is just hungering for someone to love her enough to "touch her" in a way which wasn't threatening, demeaning, or judging.
- The Down's Syndrome adult who may not always say the appropriate thing, might make a few noises during the sermon, or clap totally off-beat to the worship songs would be encouraged to stay and even become a "contributing part" of the congregation. Their smile might welcome the newest visitor of the day, or their worshipful dance invigorate the sullen soul whose week was long and quite draining of emotional energies.
- The drug addicted, skin-pocked, and colorfully-spoken young adult might perhaps realize his first real "guy hug" and a few slaps on the back to let him know he is not a rejected member of society, but a welcomed member of those who have their own hang-ups, addictions, and not so "perfect" language quirks. He might not know what he desires, having given into his one desire for that "fix" for the longest time, but he will realize it is safe to be "in need" and not be criticized for his "lack of control" over his life.
Imagine what it would be like if you and I could come into church and be who we are - not what we put on display on Sunday morning, but what we are right now, in the safety and sanctity of our own home. Why do we feel it is so necessary to come to church "cleaned up" when all Christ ever did was welcome into his midst those who weren't clean at all? We might do well to consider his example in our churches today. We might just welcome those who dress differently than we do, sport a few or more tattooed images and piercings, or just plain "act" different than us. We might just embrace those whose heart is crying out for acceptance and belonging - lonely beyond measure, but so scared to be "real" with anyone because everyone in their lives have left them scarred and torn. We might just recognize Christ in our midst - in the handhold of the prostitute, the smile of the Down's woman, or the hurting glance of the addict. What if we adopted the standard of "no hypocrites allowed" within our churches? We might just experience a whole different side of Jesus than we had ever seen before! Just sayin!