I used to stupidly think that if people just knew how good it feels to give back, everyone who was able would volunteer their time to worthy causes. In my mind, it was a marketing problem. That was naive. Service is sometimes awful.
Shortly after I started working with at risk kids, I met with a teacher who was giving me details on one of the kids I worked with. While I listened to her talk, I wanted to escape from that room so bad. The abuse this kids went through was horrifying on another level. I didn’t want to cry like I had for the plight of many other kids. I wanted to vomit.
It’s amazing how fast I went from just wanting to help out to Liam Neeson. Suddenly I was all “If you mess with my kids, I will hunt you down and find you.”
Around the same time, our new pastor was trying to impress upon our church family that we needed to truly open the gates to the community (it even prompted me to write a poem). Our church is pretty awesome and unique. It’s not unusual for people to call out during the sermon and it’s truly a loving, embracing, judgement free place. Our youth pastor and his wife even candidly talk about their adultery struggles in a new book and they are loved all the more for being so open and honest about their sin.
So, I was a little surprised when I heard there were issues with some kids who come from a rough background in our youth group. It made me nervous about the kids I was working with. These kids say things that would alarm you and they would certainly say them in church if we opened the gates and let them in. We’d have to deal with it and love them anyways. There was a number of responses to the kids acting out that concerned me for the future of acceptance for people with rough backgrounds.
It got me to thinking. Is there a threshold that we will tolerate as far as unruly behavior in church? Is there only so much that we can stand as far as saying and doing alarming things?
So I asked myself if there was anyone I wouldn’t want in our church. Who would I be upset if I was sitting next to them? Immediately a faceless person popped into my mind. It was whoever had done those horrible things to one of my kids. The man or woman who I had considered and felt justified going all Liam Neeson on.
But we are called to accept anyone. So we need to forgive even that person. God is the only truly judge and will ensure that justice prevails but, as for us, we need to accept that person into our church. It’s a hard thing to consider doing.
Tomorrow, I’m going to “Church Under the Bridge” in Waco, Texas. This is a church that meets under a bridge and was originally created to serve people who felt shunned from other churches. Today, a huge smattering of people from different backgrounds attend. Here’s a video about it:
I’m looking forward to this experience. I think it will help give me some perspective on what acceptance really looks like.