Embracing the un-embraced

imageA friend sent me a link to a very powerful, very heart breaking blog post the other day. It started out as a familiar story in which a guy decides to visit church with his parents as a way to invest in his relationship with them. From the sound of it, he doesn’t attend church but a few times a year, and I quickly learned why.

His experience that day was horrific and maddening all at the same time.

He said the preacher was going through the Parable of the Seeds, a familiar story in which Jesus compares the gospel to seed and those who hear it as different types of soil in which the seed may or may not grow. But after a while, the message took an unexpected turn. The pastor started into a rant on homosexuality and associated it with some pretty stereotypical things. From this guy’s vantage point, the preacher saw all homosexuals as pedophiles and molesters, homeless, and progressives that are trying to brainwash our children. This association did not sit well with this guy because he himself is gay. But the situation only proceeded to get worse.

Afte rthe  rant went on for a bit, the crowd stood to its feet and roared with approval of what the preacher was saying. The blog writer said that there were over 1,000 people on their feet. And if the moment couldn’t get any worse for him, his own parents were joining the rest of the crowd in letting their approval be known. Can you imagine being this guy? Thinking you’re going to church to show your parents you love them, only to be blindsided by a thunderous disapproval and judgement of your lifestyle. He concludes the post by trying to acknowledge how far his parents have come in accepting him. But, as the reader, I found myself disgusted with his parents and this “church”.
His experience makes me realize something though. How often do we rank sins according to how bad we perceive them to be? White lies and stealing a pen from work? That’s at the bottom of the list. Substance abuse and extra-marital affairs? Well, those things are more acceptable and, if they come clean, we should love them and help them recover. Pornography, homosexuality, and murder? Well…they have the plague so we shouldn’t associate ourselves with them unless it’s on our terms. (Which typically means we offer a program or extend a handout to make ourselves feel better, or they turn from their ways and THEN we can accept them.) I know it’s a little extreme to associate a lifestyle choice and an addiction with murder. But that’s how it often comes across. Are you feeling the right hook in your kidneys yet?

Let’s be honest. All of us do this ranking of sin, it’s just that your list may look different from mine. But what we have forgotten is that sin is sin in God’s eyes. It’s all disobedience and rebellion against Him. And He is the only One who can forgive us of our sin and help us become new again, all through His chosen method of Jesus’ brutal death upon the cross. What we so easily forget is that our job is simply to be a reflection of Jesus to those around us regardless of who they are and what they’ve done. It’s hard to love the unlovable at times because what is unlovable to us is usually what makes us uncomfortable, or something we don’t understand. But we are all unlovable because of sin. It’s the common playing field we exist on. But Jesus loves us and we see it time after time after time in the Bible.

My church has seven core values and one of those is to embrace the un-embraced. It’s not just a clever saying, it is reality. Trust me, there are some jacked up people that come there and we are all in recovery. Drug addicts, divorced people, homosexuals, recovering Baptists, porn addicts, alcoholics, compulsive liars, co-dependents, people with PTSD, sex addicts…I could go on and on. The common theme is we are all hurting and broken people that are finding acceptance, healing, hope, and restoration in a community that is focused on living the gospel more and more. We aren’t perfect. It’s a place where it’s ok not to be ok…we just don’t want to stay there

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I’m thankful for this blogger’s willingness to share his experience. That must have been hard. But by putting himself out there, we are able to learn a valuable lesson. To embrace the unembraced, we must remain focused on living and sharing the transformative power of the gospel regardless of background, race, lifestyle choice, or anything else. Let’s allow Jesus to work on the roots of sin in each person’s heart (including our own), because He is the only One capable and qualified to do so.

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