I was just innocently browsing my news feed on Facebook (other social media sites are available, apparently) and was struck by something someone had posted: they said that they were no longer welcome in a particular church.
Now, I do not know the person in question. I do not know any of the context. So I don’t want to jump to any conclusions. Except I have. Two of them.
The first one is to think about the impact of that statement on those who will read it. For some it will confirm all of their negative prejudices about church. For others it will generate sympathy and empathy. For anyone who is a part of the church in question it might generate other emotions and reactions. For me it provoked a visceral response.
The second conclusion is to ask myself (bearing in mind I don’t know any of the context) how a situation could have deteriorated in a church so badly that someone was no longer welcome. I can understand someone getting banned from a pub for drunken behaviour. I can understand someone getting banned from a football stadium for racist abuse or throwing coins at players. But churches are supposed to be places of grace: the people who are the church should be more acutely aware of their own failings and how dependent they are on God’s grace.
I know that churches are made up of people, and that we are all flawed human beings. But we are not flawed human beings who simply shrug our shoulders, tell ourselves that this is how we are, and justify appalling behaviour towards one another. We are flawed human beings in whom God’s Spirit is at work (if we let him) to change us by accentuating God’s positive attributes and eroding our negative attitudes and behaviour. Slowly but surely we should be being changed to become more like the people God intended us to be when he drew up the blueprints.
I am not apportioning blame or insinuating anything about the situation I mentioned. But when we have got to the point as churches when someone is banned (or feels unwelcome) surely we need to look again at the prophet drawing in the sand and listen to what he had to say about lobbing stones at other people (John 8:1-11).
Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Be blessed, be a blessing