Right Church, Wrong Pew

Several years ago, I had the privilege of going to an amazing church. It was completely made up of people who had been wounded in churches and who weren’t afraid to admit it. We were the most unlikely church group you would ever want to meet. But we had one huge thing in common. We all felt a need for something that we had never been able to find: a family. Something larger than ourselves to belong to—to be accepted by, unconditionally.

I learned more in those four years than I’ve ever learned in any church I’ve ever been in. I learned that as different as we all are, really, deep down, we want the same things. And so while the churches we had previously been to saw us as high maintenance and unredeemable… While the churches we’d attended just saw us as stereotypes that we represented—everything from a preacher’s daughter to a homosexual to a crack addict—we just saw each other as beloved friends. To our previous churches, we may have been freaks and outcasts, but to us, we were a family. And more importantly, God saw us not as rejects, but as His priceless, precious, beloved ones.

Last Wednesday, we talked about being connected. This week, we take another step beyond that and realize that we do not all have to be cookie-cutter clones of each other to be connected. We can look, talk, act, think, and believe differently and still be connected. In fact, that’s what God asks, expects, and requires. If God had wanted us all to be the same, why did He create us with so many variations? And if God loves each of us as if we were His Only One, then why do we so fear and despise our differences and people who are different from us?

I know many Christians who would read this and think, “Oh, I’m very loving and accepting!” But some of those same people are the ones that refuse to accept a woman into the congregation of their church simply because her ears are pierced. (I’ve seen that happen.) Or they think they aren’t prejudiced because they “treat their maid well” while calling her racial epithets behind her back. (I’ve seen that happen.) We put on our church signs that everyone is welcome, but if visitors walk in that have tattoos or piercings or unclean clothes, we seat them in the back or by themselves—or we walk out. (I’ve seen all of those happen.) Or we sit in our pews and feel thankful that “those kinds of people” (fill in the blank here with any race, religion, gender, sexual orientation you can think of) aren’t here because they “don’t belong here.” (To which I respond, “Oh, Hell yes, they do!”)

CS Lewis says this:

When you find yourself wanting to turn your children, or pupils, or even your neighbours, into people exactly like yourself, remember that God probably never meant them to be that. You and they are different organs intended to do different things. On the other hand, when you are tempted not to bother about someone else’s troubles because they are “no business of yours,” remember that though he is different from you he is part of the same organism as you. (Lewis, 159)

God doesn’t intend for us all to be the same. He expects for us each to live well and love well, whoever we are, whatever we look like, wherever we’re from, and no matter who we find ourselves spending our lives with. Let’s stop fault-finding and judging each other and start loving each other, regardless of our differences. In fact, let’s embrace those differences as different shades in the picture that’s called “The Kingdom of God” and find the beauty in it.

This post is part of a regularly weekly discussion that my friend, Jason Stasyszen and several of the rest of us are having on CS Lewis’ classic, “Mere Christianity.” Whether you read it or not, please join us for the discussion! Make sure to stop by Jason’s to read his post and to see the rest of the posts on this week’s chapter. Thanks!

About Sarah Salter

Comments

  1. This struck a huge chord with me. I have not been to church in decades, even though I’m a Christian and was raised in the church. Because I could not find a church that did not preach AGAINST rather than FOR. I have eschewed “religion” because it tended (in my experience) to pigeonhole differences into their own idea of where THEY thought “they” should be. We are NOT all the same. Oh, the glory, variety, color and joy these differences bring to our world! Thank you, Sarah, for this post. It brought me back to my heart.

  2. Sarah Salter says:

    Barb, you have such a sweet, sweet heart, I just feel a sisterhood whenever we talk. And we ARE family, though we’re three thousand miles apart. I’m so glad of that! I’m sorry that churches have hurt or alienated you in the past. But I do encourage you that you are loved. You are part of the family. You do belong with Him and with those of us who are His. We are very different, but it makes us beautiful, doesn’t it? And you’re an important part of that beauty. Love you, Barb! :)

  3. Good post, Sarah. We forget that God made us different from each other because he uses different talents, skills, abilities, desires, people to build his kingdom. Imagine what the church would be like if we all had only the gift of leadership.

  4. Sarah Salter says:

    Thanks, Glynn! That’s a great analogy, too. Recently at a business meeting at our church, the pastor (who is very visionary) was talking about how grateful he is for the church administrator (who is very much a practical, by the numbers kind of guy.) If all the church leaders were visionaries only, the church would be broke and we wouldn’t have any means or materials to make the kingdom work. At the same time, if all the church leaders were statisticians and bankers, then we wouldn’t have anybody to give us a vision to lead us forward and then, we’d become stagnant and irrelevant. We all have our place in the Body. And it only really works when we’re all in our places, doing those things we are gifted to do best.

  5. Tax collectors, soldiers, and fishermen… Oh my!

    Different histories… different personas… different abilities… different looks…

    One God. One Body.

  6. Sarah Salter says:

    Dusty, that’s almost poetic! And exactly right! Thank you. :)

  7. What a key to Kingdom life–we don’t try to change everyone to suit us (that would be exhausting and ultimately fruitless anyway) and we don’t just leave everyone alone to their own things. We mourn with those who mourn, speak the truth in love, express faith through service–because we are intimately and mysteriously connected in the body. Thanks Sarah.

  8. Sarah Salter says:

    Agreed! Thanks, Jason!

  9. I can’t improve upon the previous comments but I agree with them all!
    So I simply offer up a resounding AMEN!

  10. Sarah Salter says:

    Thank you, Sugar Bee! XOXO

  11. What SarahBee said! :-)

  12. Sarah Salter says:

    Thank you, Helen Joy! Big Hugs! :-)

  13. I miss the church that I attended where difference were fully embraced.

  14. i liked reading his thoughts about the same “and” different.

  15. Really people should accept each others differences and stop humiliating others. Because we all are same for God despite our differences. Nice post though.

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