"Loving the Person Who Isn't "One of Us"
ShellyThe best way for the church to get clear about our mission in the world is to study the life of Jesus. Our goal is to be in our corporate life the continuation of who Jesus was in his personal life. So naturally we take our cues from him. We watch him break down barriers by taking time for children, affirming the dignity of women, and receiving the people others avoid. He touches lepers and blind people. He receives Gentiles and makes a Samaritan the hero of one of his best-known parables. He rescues a woman about to be stoned for committing adultery. He eats with tax collectors and sinners. As you read those stories from the Gospels, however, you notice that the religious establishment is outraged by his behavior. They don't imitate him. They criticize him -- and eventually murder him!It distresses me greatly that churches generally have the same bad name with the general public today that I have just given the "religious establishment" of Jesus' time. That is, churches are typically viewed more as exclusive clubs than welcoming havens. More people say they find nonjudgmental acceptance in Alcoholics Anonymous than in churches! And if you are inclined to reply in a defensive mode that groups like A.A. are willing to tolerate every point of view and let people get by with doing anything the like, you are exposing the fact that you know nothing about how that group functions."