While browsing through certain tags today, I came across a Christian post titled “FOR SINNERS ONLY!” with a cutesy picture of an animal with hands clasped together as though praying.
As a Christian myself, these types of things bother me.
At one point and time, I was as legalistic as can be (albeit I was very young – both in age and in my faith), even telling people that you couldn’t be a Christian if you didn’t go to church. After spending about seven years at the church I became a believer at, surrounded by this thinking, I made the choice to (gladly) leave. I didn’t know where I would start to attend services, but I knew I couldn’t spend another Sunday surrounded by uptight joyless gossipers. This isn’t to say I judged them–this is just the way it was. “Women can only where skirts!” “Dying your hair is wrong!” “Rock is the devil’s music!” (I literally got sat down and spoken to for an hour about how evil it was that I listened to Christian rock by a guy who, in an ironic twist of fate, had a son who ended up loving secular rock)
As I found a couple of places of worship to attend on different days during the week, I began to experience newer, fresher, and more vibrant Church culture. My worship and expressions of praise soared to new levels, and my understanding of God, and with it my love for Him, grew. I ceased to see the world as “Us vs Them” and instead began to realize that to love God is to love man, His creation. Now, at 23 years of age, I find love to be what I strive for most. I want to love those who are broken, those who are poor, the unlovable and the lovely, the holy and the decadent, and everyone in between.
And this is the Church’s assignment.
With that being said, I feel that too often, we as Christians set up a divide between the Saints and the Sinners. I think about that post I saw and all I can think is “do you really think that’s going to draw the ‘sinners’ in? Or rather, will you attract all the Christians who come to your blog and say ‘amen!’ or ‘praise God’?” We live in an era where the mistakes of our past are taught at every corner of education; racial segregation, genocide, class divisions, etc. And while the rest of the world is beginning to see blacks and whites, men and women, young and old, rich and homeless, and everyone in between not by their differences, but by our shared quality of being human, it’s easy to see Christians falling behind by creating a contrast.
Many churches say “we welcome everybody!” but really, those same congregations would be appalled or disgusted to see a gay couple sitting among them, or a smelly homeless dude, or a heavily-tattooed punk rocker partaking of their “special club.” Change is needed.
Thankfully, I am ecstatic to see that the Church in America is realizing these same things. I am proud to say that I’ve been a member of two of the most welcoming churches in one of the most diverse areas of the world. I have seen the power of the love of God; the Love that knows no class or division. Biblically speaking, are there sinners and saints? Yes, of course. But the line between us is at times very thin. Jesus recognized this. The Bible says that He didn’t think of oneness with God something to be held on to, so He came to His creation and died by their hand in the name of unfailing Love. He sat and ate and befriended tax collectors, adulterers, religious people, homeless people, those afflicted with terrible diseases, and so many others that the pious zealots of the day wanted nothing to do with. He came to show us that God’s love is for everyone, not just those who look like they’ve got it all together on the outside. And I think the fact that the “holiest” people of the day hated Jesus shows that His love really is offensive. It’s offensive to think that God loved Hitler as much as He loves the Pope. But the truth of our offense speaks volumes of our hearts.
I have witnessed an increasing number of youth coming into an understanding of God I wish I’d had at their age, and it’s giving me so much hope. The generation of Christians that is coming up will be, in my opinion, the most loving yet. As we become more hungry for Him, He satisfies our thirst with increasing revelations of His love.
But while my hope in the youth grows, my heart is still troubled for those who are decades older than me; those for whom segregation has always been normal. Those who have no trouble condemning or guilt-tripping the souls who are far from God. I pray for these, and I hope you will join me in this.
I may be young and lacking in life experience, and maybe I’m a bit too new-fashioned, but I believe in the power of Love. Love saved my life, and has saved the life of countless others. The time has come to stop seeing people as either lost or found, but rather to see them all as human beings under the umbrella of God’s love.
Love wins. Always.