Kiddos aren’t allowed to play with their friends until they clean up their room. The rest rooms in any restaurant demand that employees wash their hands before returning to work. Sometimes churches treat people the same way. Clean up now, get your act together, be holy like we are, and then we’ll let you in.
Johnny Cash, an American singer and songwriter in the 1950’s and 60’s, was talking to his record company executive, trying to dissuade him from playing concerts in prisons. The executive explains, “Your fans are church folk, Johnny. Christians. They don’t wanna hear you singing to a bunch of murderers and rapists, tryin’ to cheer ’em up.”
After a brief pause, Johnny replies, “Well, they’re not Christians, then.”
We church folk cringe at the holier-than-thou Pharisees in Jesus’ day, but we are like them when we expect anyone to look more like us, talk more like us, and act more like us to be comfortable at our church. In other words, get your act together.
Where’s that Christian bumper sticker on your car? And why aren’t you speaking Churchspeak language that our church knows, uses and understands (and why are you using words on our unofficial list of unapproved words)? Whoa, and what’s up with those tattoos? Piercings, too? I supposed you’re going to tell us next that you’re not a tither and haven’t read your Bible in a decade? Really?
Since when does God play hard to get? If people needed to get things together first before coming to church or to God, then why do they need a Savior anyway? And who says that we ourselves have it all together buttoned up just perfectly?
We need that Savior too. We have created our own personal point system for earning God’s acceptance our way. So Jesus has as much work to do on church people as he does on those “worse” sinners.
The better news: Jesus expects just as little from us to be forgiven and loved. Nothing. He’ll take care of it for us. Not to worry.
Who in your life doubts that God could ever love him or her? Show that person Jesus. And, hopefully, bring that person to church where they will find free, life-changing grace in Jesus, too.
PRAYER: When pride prevents me from loving others, Jesus, as you love them, forgive me, and take me to others who need you like I do. Bless Christians everywhere with a willingness to befriend those unlike us, and open the doors of churches everywhere to people who think they don’t belong there. Amen.
FURTHER MEDITATION: Check out this version of Amazing Grace by Johnny Cash. Who needs your grace today? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=khhTpugsmHc