As we continue to grow as a church I am very grateful for the opportunity God is giving us to minister to people that often get overlooked. Every Sunday we have people coming to our church who are homeless, some who are high, some who have mental health challenges, etc… As you know this can sometimes result in our service being disrupted. Also, at times inflammatory things can be said. We’ve had racist remarks made and other comments that are profoundly ignorant. My first inclination is to react quickly and solve these “problems.” I want to keep out potential disruptions and come down hard on those who speak with ignorance. But the question I have to ask myself is; am I really ready to love like Jesus?
Jesus said he came for the sick, not the well. Jesus hung out with riff raff like tax collectors and prostitutes. Jesus had two followers who were so rowdy they were known as the “sons of thunder.” And so as followers of Jesus we must follow Jesus in ministering to all people. We need to embrace meeting people where they are at with the grace of God as we seek to show them the love of Christ.
This does not mean that we should put up with disruptions. Two Sundays ago you saw that if someone starts shouting out in our service, we will act. We will also correct hate speech when it is said and not give it a listening ear. As a shepherd appointed by the Great Shepherd Jesus, I am very aware that I’m not just to tenderly care for the flock, but that I also have a staff to be used to protect from wolves. You have my commitment to do that to the best of my ability. However, in all these things I think our heart should always be postured to love. Even while asking someone to leave if they are being disruptive, we want to see how we can serve them, what is upsetting them, what help they might need. If someone is speaking in a way that is hateful, we want to correct that, not just because we are offended, but so that they might be freed from their anger and bigotry.
Some churches do not want to run the risk of truly being open to anyone. Other churches are open to anyone and do not want to do anything to protect. One is too restrictive and the other too permissive. We are seeking to strike the Biblical balance between the two. We want to bear with others in love, while also protecting one another from harm.
There is no policy we can institute that will be able to account for every situation we will find ourselves in. What we need is to be a body that is led by the Spirit and saturated in Jesus’ love.
May we continue to be such a body as we seek to truly love others as Christ has loved us.