“Sometimes, we can hide our sin, but yours follows you around all the time.” ~ pastor’s wife to a single mom
“I’m not inviting you to this baby shower because I want to respect your feelings.” ~ church member said to a woman battling infertility
“You don’t need to look up this Scripture. I’m sure you already know the Bible like the back of your hand.” ~ youth pastor excluding a 14-year-old from a church Bible drill
“I’m not certain I will let my kids play with your child.” ~ church member to mom about her HIV+ child
Each of these statements has been said by people who are Christ-followers; people who live their lives for the Lord and want to be known as inclusive individuals in their churches.
The little 14-year-old who had her youth pastor exclude her from a Bible drill…well, that was me. My dad was the senior pastor, and I was often shoved to the back pew for “viewing purposes” only. To a girl in her formative spiritual years, this was devastating.
This experience shaped how I began to view other people in the church. I began to see other people inside of our pretty church walls who also felt alone. I could read their eyes and body language well because it felt familiar to me.
I’m guessing that most of you reading this are surprised by the subject matter. It doesn’t seem likely that within the Christian community we could be so disrespectful to our fellow brothers and sisters; but, we are. It is said that we are harshest on those we are closest to, and maybe that is why this type of behavior exists within the church.
We don’t mean to, but how often do we think as we speak rather than before? My hand is in the air; I do it ALL THE TIME.
These stories often make me think of the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4.
Her lifestyle would not have been pleasing to Jesus, and, for this, the Jews normally looked down upon her. Who was going to tell her about the true Living Water? This day, in John 4, Jesus Himself stopped and told her of the Water that would have her thirst no more.
This story resonates with me because I see this woman at the well in our churches today. I see her standing alone, afraid to reach out because no one has spoken kindly to her.
Sometimes, we share our version of Jesus that is tainted by our personal opinions and critical judgments. When we do this, the LAST thing people experience from us is Jesus.
In order to show Himself to the woman at the well, Jesus met her where she was. He entered the muck and dirtiness of her life and showed her the light to walk towards.
All I wanted when I was 14 was for someone to enter my life and show me Jesus where I was.
My friend who had a baby out of wedlock did not want to be reminded of her bad decisions. She wanted to be shown the love of Christ where she was as a single mom.
My friend who can’t have a baby of her own didn’t want her sister in Christ to point out her barren womb again. She wanted to be included in celebrating the life of another baby.
The mama who was adopting an HIV+ child just wanted to know that their child would be welcomed and accepted within their church family.
If Jesus were here right now, He would not be sitting with me. He would be with the woman at the well; He would be with the teenager who feels alone, with the single mom in need, with the friend crying to feel a baby kick in her womb, with the child who has HIV.
He would be where we are seldom willing to go.
And, if our purpose is to be more like Jesus, this my friends, should tell you where YOU should also be.