What Are You?

What are you? Male, female, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, American, immigrant, Republican, Democrat…? How about human?

If I were to ask you what church you go to, we’d also have many different answers. Some may not even go at all…But, when the religion question comes up, what do you say first? Baptist, Catholic, Seventh-day Adventist, Methodist…? How about Christian? I think this says a lot about what we value most.

Do you consider yourself your denomination over Christian? Are we all brothers and sisters in Christ first? Or does your particular denomination shame or discredit others for being different? What was Jesus? His nationality was Jewish, but it’s because of Him that we can even claim Christianity at all. Did He belong to a certain church? He preached in synagogues, on sea shores and mounts, but He also seemed to get on to the church folks more than any others.

He’s why we worship or should be. Denominations are formed by different interpretations of the Bible. Personally, I am a Christian who, at this point in my life, attends and serves at a Seventh-day Adventist church. I love my church and the people in it. I may not be happy with everything going on in it, but maybe that’s exactly why I’m there.

Since there are no perfect people, I can assume there must be no perfect church on earth either since they are made up of just that, people. Their ideologies, theologies, policies, doctrines, interpretations of scripture. I also think there are wonderful churches everywhere because I think there are wonderful Jesus following people in them. May we each be one where we are.

May we all serve Him where we are called and shine His light in all denominational congregations. May we love like Jesus to the best of our ability right where we are and especially in church. Sometimes they need it the most. May we go where He asks us to go. Because, one day, one sweet day, we’ll all be together. Regardless of the biases and prejudices associated.

There are enough prejudices in this world already, may we be increasingly aware that denominations do this too and may we try to be different and gracious about it.

I believe each one of us who claim Jesus will worship together in heaven. There won’t be six different churches to choose from on the streets of gold. We will be Christians who proclaimed His name above all others and clung to Him here like He clung to that cross for us.

So…what are you??

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What About Them?

In Matthew 23, Jesus warns the Pharisees about focusing on rules over the love and mercy of God. How do we treat people? When you reach out in compassion towards someone, anyone…we are treating them as Jesus would. One of my dear friends just hugged and hugged me last night, until the tears flowed….In that moment, she was the arms of Jesus to me.

This post is about how we treat people. How did Jesus treat people? Back then, probably everyone came to church (synagogue) in sandals. But, these days when someone walks into church in  flip flops or torn jeans, how do you feel? Their clothes, hairstyle, or jewelry may displease your eyes, but how’s your heart? Are you glad they’re there? Jesus is. On the flipside, if someone is wearing a suit, do you immediately assume they are looking down on you for not?

What if they smell like smoke? What if they are ashamed? Embarrassed? Guilty? Hurt? Can we be the hands and feet of Jesus? Can we not only make room on our faithful pew, but smile and welcome them? Because, guess what, we all are. They have come to the right place, not the wrong one.

It hurts my heart so badly when I hear the stories of church people against church people or just as much church people against other church people. We are all people. There is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9), so it’s been like this for ages and it will continue to. But, I’d still like to point out that although we will never be Jesus, we can ask Him for help to love and view others as He does.

As a married woman and a single mom, I’ve walked into church countless times alone. I look for friends, but I still usually sit alone, sometimes I slip out the back early. I come for Jesus and fellowship with loving, accepting, warm believers, but I leave before I get it for fear that I won’t. As have many. And some never return because of it…

I’ve been seen with a few different guys at church over the past few years. I’ll be honest, it’s hard and embarrassing. When you’re married and alone, people wonder where your spouse is. When you’re single, they wonder why, when you’re with someone new, they wonder who, why, and how long. And, truth of the matter, even if people aren’t thinking this, we think they are. This is just a personal example. There are so many other concerns that people walk into church with, are self conscious about, or feel different because of. Think about the courage it takes…

This happens everywhere people are because we are just that….people. All churches, at family reunions, in the grocery store, on the highway, at our workplace, on social media, at Christmas dinner….It’s the way Christians (enter your denomination here) treat other people (especially other Christians (enter your denomination here) that turn people away. As much as this hurts my heart, I cannot imagine how much it hurts God’s.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:34-45 (ESV)

When we wonder whether or not to reach out, I think we need to remember and focus on how far God reached for us. With arms stretched as far as He possibly could, nailed to that wooden cross, Jesus reached, stretched, gasped, and died for me. Maybe someone else needs this reminder today.

He didn’t just do this for me, He did it for all of you. Everyone. So, my desire is to treat people in this way. All people. Like a person He died for, because He did. Regardless of what your scared to share or who you voted for, whether you’ve served time or should, whether you live on a golf course or in your back seat…Regardless of how you eat, keep the Sabbath, or dress. Regardless of what church you attend or school your kids go to.

May we love like Jesus does. When I die, this is the legacy I would most like to leave.

I pray forgiveness for when I’ve failed, I know that I have. Where does our help come from? Our help comes from the Lord. (Psalm 121:2)