The church, the people who gather within (and hopefully go out), can sometimes place rules and regulations on entering that God never put upon those who gather.
The photo above shows a little boy who is intending on going a carousel ride, but do you see the stipulation for him entering? You must be this 42 inches tall to ride the carousel, this little kid sadly doesn’t make the cut. 😦 He’s too small, and his stance makes me assume he’s anxious and wanting to desperately ride the carousel despite being a few inches shy of 42 inches.
But isn’t that what we sometimes do in church? We don’t allow “those” people in…why? Well some reasons come down to…race, belief system, sexual orientation, emotional/mental/physical state of being, etc. We come up with reasons why someonecannot come to our church, our gathering of believers, and it bothers and offends me greatly…Guess what? It offends God also.
Because here’s the thing, when we foster the paradigm of “us versus them” that instills tension and hostility, and where does that have a place within our churches? Here’s a hint, IT DOESN”T!!!
When I think about the “us versus them” paradigm I think that it distorts our perception of God as well as our perception of humanity, and to some degree it removes the humanity of those we deem “them”.
On a side note – I sometimes wonder if the reason why some Germans and others during WW2 were able to do such atrocious things to Jews, homosexuals, Jehovah Witnesses, etc was because they got it worked into their minds that it was “okay” because “they’re less than human/they’re not even human” and when you have humans treating other humans less than humans that only leads to disastrous results.
Anne Lamott said it well; “You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” That quote cuts me deep, because it causes me with the work of God to have an open heart surgery of sorts, to examine myself from the inside out, to find whom I am hating in my life and therefore projecting an image of a God of my own making that hates whomever I make out to be “them”.
The church, the people, the fellowship that happens within a man-made structure (or outdoors if that is what’s available) are supposed to be there for one another in good times as well as bad times. When we consciously (and sometimes I admit it’s an unconscious act) to respond “fine” to the “how are you doing?” question or the other way around.
We shouldn’t be giving the FINE answer continuously, but sometimes community isn’t fostered in churches or you may just be the new person; who really wants to give the other-than-FINE answer when you’re new? But for body of believers who have some rapport with others should be able to put forth what’s really going on in their lives, and sometimes FINE does sum it up, but sometimes it doesn’t come close to the truth.
Honesty sometimes begets honesty in others, sometimes you need to put your neck out there to foster the same in others, it shouldn’t be done so as to have this effect, but it very well can help break the ice that can be rather thick at times.
One of my pastors said a few years ago that “the church should be a mission house and not a social club” and I’m with him on that completely. We should be aiding those who are broken because we ourselves our broken, but God can work through our brokenness and sometimes we will be delivered from that which haunts us, that which controls us, we’re just called to remain faithful to God and serve him by serving others, to love him by loving others.
Go forth and break down the “us versus them” paradigm in your life, “be the change you want to see” and continually be blessed and continue to bless others.