We live in a culture where it is important to ‘belong’. We have all been either ‘in’ or ‘out’ when it comes to the ‘clubs’ of our society – like church groups – country clubs – gyms or sports arenas. Even as children we gravitate to those most likely to accept us and either start our own ‘club’ – or long to be with the ‘other kids’ who seem to have a better ‘club’ than we have. We all want to belong. We all want acceptance – even as children. We want to be noticed and to ‘fit it’. Sometimes sacrificing ourselves in the process – because being with the popular kids – or the ones who are ‘in’ is far superior to us than being on the outside looking in.
Unfortunately we have also done this as adults. We’ve done it in our churches. We’ve done it as Christians.
It looks something like this: New person comes and joins my ‘club’ and now I feel threatened. Maybe they will take something away from me. Maybe my friends will like them better. Maybe they will be funnier than I am – maybe they will be better than I am.
We had a situation years ago in our church – where we had a thriving music ministry – choir, orchestra and worship team. This ‘club’ involved about 100 people on any given Sunday. It was hard work to keep the thing going, new people were encouraged to be a part – but looked at somewhat suspiciously. Eventually those involved took on the identity of the ‘club’. When changes were made and even drastically cut down – those that thought they were ‘in’ were threatened and challenged. Suddenly church did not become about the ‘big picture’ – or about new people finding Christ – as it became about the ‘club’. It was their identity.
For years we have defined who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’ as far as our Christian faith is concerned. Some feel it necessary to have a firm grasp on just who is accepted as part of the ‘club’ and those who are never welcomed in. Those divorced, from a bad family, those involved in moral failure or substance abuse would not be a part of the club. It was not said in so many words – but everyone just knew. I mean – ‘they really aren’t very spiritual, are they’?
Is is ever possible to really hate the sin – but love the sinner? Do we put feet to this by allowing them into our ‘club’ – into our ‘world’ to break bread with us?
We live next door to a lesbian couple. They are the nicest human beings you will ever meet – and though we ourselves think homosexuality is wrong and contradicts everything we know to be true as far as the Bible is concerned – we really like these ladies. We love them. We know these women would be shunned by others of our faith and it makes us sad. They would only see the shame and sin – they would never be able to see them.
We also know of others who are shunned, ignored and made to feel ‘out’ instead of ‘in’ – because of those judging them have much emotion – bad feelings or personal prejudices – nothing more. They are judged on a feeling or on the physical appearance. Or because they don’t believe like we do. I think we have to be very careful – when we have a ‘club’ that is exclusive – and restricts because of small mindedness and agenda. In doing so we give the silent message to all – “I’m better – I have the only truth – there is no other way to see it than my way” This is dangerous indeed and it is how cults are formed – and why Hitler had so much power and influence over people. It is wrong, wrong, WRONG!
We need to embrace people – especially those that are different from us. There is much we can learn from other cultures and even other denominations. I believe we may have a surprise when we get to heaven and find our Catholic brothers and sisters – even the Baptist and Lutheran standing beside us! How small our little ‘club’ will seem then. God sees the ‘big picture’ – he is not about denominational walls – he is about the heart.
Let’s not make the mistake of judging others – especially the heart and motive that only God can truly see. He is the only judge – and in the end the truth will revealed. Someday it may be revealed to us – that very person we don’t like – and that we’re not allowing ‘in’ to our ‘club’ – God is whispering, ‘they are my favorite‘.
Our job is to love, encourage and be an example to others of the love and acceptance that we received from Christ – when we stood before Him and said, “I’m in”. Let’s bring a whole lot of others with us – as we change this dying world – with our love.
Who’s In? You are. Remember – you are God’s favorite.