I have a friend who really has a problem with the church. The thing is, I know that one of the main reasons she has a problem with the church is because somebody else ruined it for her. That other person happens to be a pastor. He made her feel as though she could not be a part of the church unless she behaved in a certain way and thought in a certain way. Now, I don't want to speak for her, but I think maybe because of that bad experience she had with that pastor, she feels as though she can't trust the church and the people in it. And that is just wrong. Why do people have to ruin church for other people?
Many times, in our short-sighted sinfulness, we think we know better than God does, and that ends up hurting people. Telling someone they are not welcome because they are gay, or poor, or ask too many questions, or belong to a different Christian denomination than we do, puts God and God's grace in a BOX. Who are we to say that God would not welcome these people, too? Didn't Jesus eat with society's "undesireables?" Wouldn't he also eat with the church's so-called "undesireables?"
All I'm saying is that if we REALLY believe in a Christ who died for EVERYBODY'S sins (including our own!), and if we REALLY believe in a God who is "gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love," then who are we to say who would or would not be loved by God? Who are we to ruin church for other people by telling them they are not welcome? Is not the call of the Christian to love one another, as Christ has loved us?
Grace is God's ultimate gift--God's love and forgiveness given freely for all. We cannot limit God's grace. It is not up to us to do so--it is not up to us to put it in a box. God's grace is wider and deeper and more profound than we could ever imagine with our limited human understanding. Didn't Jesus show this to us in the very way he lived and died and rose again FOR ALL OF US?
We really need to think hard about how we present ourselves and our faith to others, because, in everything we do, we are ambassadors for Christ. We are CALLED as Christians to model God's grace to everyone--especially to those who do not know God's love. Imagine how horrible it would be if because of our actions, someone decided that he or she did NOT want to know God or be a part of the church.
Someone else who is very close to me has left the church because, as he says, "If that's the way Christians are going to behave, then I don't want to be Christian!" This is not the legacy we want to leave. What a sin! I am ashamed of those Christians who ruin church for other people. I want to shout it from the mountaintops: "That's NOT who we are, and that's NOT the God I know! God loves you, and God wants to be in relationship with you! Come back and experience what it means to know God's grace and love!"