As I was sitting one Sunday in church, a young girl who does not come much came and sat beside me. The first thing I noticed was that she was wearing a very inappropriate top and revealing way too much. So, I did what any “loving” mother of the church would do. I took a very long head covering, gently draping it over her shoulders, to cover the top of her body.
Some of you would agree with my actions. I mean after all my young son was beside me! She is a stumbling block to the other boys here! I am protecting others. Others will be distracted. I am teaching other young girls watching how to dress in church. I am teaching her how to respect the church. Love is shown through correction, as I correct my own children. I would have corrected my daughter if she came like this to church. Aren’t I treating her like I would my own daughter?
But, some select few of you, would see the hypocrisy of my actions. I may be covered up in clothing but my heart is full of judgment and pride. The outside of the cup is clean for me and I wear it proudly, religiously. Because I know how to dress in church, I look better than her. Because I come to church every Sunday, I know better than her. Because I am a servant or leader in the church, I am better than her.
Did I show her love or condemnation by covering her?
Instead of covering her with a loving hug, I covered her with disgrace and judgment. Rather than love her, I put her to shame. I humiliated her.
Instead of welcoming her to church, which she hadn’t come to in a long time, I pushed her back out the door emotionally and maybe even physically as well.
If we have grown up in the church, we have seen the fixation we have on correction. We are fixated with how people sit. Not crossing legs or not. Did I step into the altar with my right foot or not? Did I cover my hair? And many more examples.
I value that our churches have taught us how to respect the church. How to be disciplined and take the church serious. But have we forgotten about acceptance and love? I know I have.
One of the characteristics of our motto, “Every Church is a Mission Church,” is that a church openly welcomes and loves everyone, without discrimination. If we want to fulfill our calling that we are all called to be missionaries, then we have to practice this love and acceptance of others.
Yes, we should have respect in our churches. But what if we look at things backwards. What if I show love to someone and through that love, the person will eventually want to respect the presence of God? Seeing things backwards takes a much longer time to see change. But that is what Mission teaches us – there is no overnight, quick fix to mission. Correction will get a much faster solution. But correction without first loving and having a relationship is merely judgment. And most of the time, we spend our time correcting this way.
Once, I was at a church for a wedding of close friends of ours. We went the day before to help set up the church for the wedding. There was a youth boy there who lived right next door to the church and we heard rarely comes. He spent the entire day voluntarily mowing the lawn, preparing for this wedding for this family friend of theirs. As he walked into the church to greet a visiting priest, a visiting servant quickly scolded him not to enter the church because he was wearing shorts. The boy’s face is a face I will never forget as he turned to walk out the door.
I am not here to pass judgment on our servants or leaders. But, we have all seen or felt the stab of judgment and the criticism of correction without love. There are very few instances where we can share an example of someone building us up with total acceptance and love. And why I remember this story from years ago is because I have been guilty too.
I have hurt numerous people with my judgment. With my fixation on others to follow the rules before I have showered them with love. By being a Sunday police.
We have both seen the good and the bad in our churches. Let us see more of the good. Let us DO more of the good. Let us make a movement to shower others with love.
Let’s not focus on correction. Correction will come. But focus on love!!
The church is full of protectors of the rules but who will rise up and be a protector of love? The Love of Jesus.
What can I and others do to change this?
These are small ways we can teach ourselves and our children on how to openly accept everyone who walks into the door of our churches. Then, we live out this motto: Every Church is a Mission Church.
- Remember our Calling
I love this verse from Ephesians 4:1-4:
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling.
We are all called to live out this way. These are powerful verses challenging us on how to live out our calling to be missionaries. Through gentleness, loving humility, and perseverance when it gets hard or challenging. But above all, keep the unity of the Spirit because we are one body. Keeping the unity requires me to love unconditionally and accept without bounds.
- Change your Perception
Instead of giving the people sitting next to me talking in church, a dirty look because they are “distracting” me; say, I am happy that these two people have found fellowship here at church instead of somewhere else.
When someone comes and not dressed appropriate; say I am glad she still decided to come when she could have chosen a hundred other places to go.
Instead of making the mother of a small, noisy child feel bad with a mean look, offer a helping hand.
If someone has not come in a while, sit beside them, then make them a cup of coffee after church.
Others will see your example and follow.
Your Next Mission Assignment: This Sunday at church, shower someone who is in need, who doesn’t fit in or who is unloved, with unconditional love and acceptance.