I was talking to one of my praise team members a while back, and she recounted an event that happened when she was a teen that made me angry.
She attended a small church in southeast Arkansas, and once invited some of her friends to visit that church. It seems, though, that some of the members of the church didn't like the way the visiting teens were dressed, in addition to some other peculiarities the church members found unacceptable. It soon became clear to the teens they weren't welcome, so they didn't come back.
I don't get it. In fact, I've never been able to get it. Even when I was a teen, I knew implicitly that the mission of the Gospel was to all people, not just people that looked like me or thought like me or talked like me or acted like me. All people means all people. And yet there are always some Christians that seem to have a screening process for access to the Gospel.
I wonder sometimes who else they would screen out.
For most of my life I have been a student of the Bible, and I've discovered some of the most important characters in the Bible probably wouldn't be welcome in many churches.
There was Abraham, who occasionally lied about his relationship with his wife to save his own skin. And then there was the time he decided to "help" God keep a promise by fathering a child with his wife's servant. Abraham would demonstrate a strong faith in other areas of his life, but he clearly had some problematic behaviors as well.
And then there was Abraham's grandson, Jacob, the "used-car salesman" of the Old Testament. He cheated his twin brother out of both his birthright and his father's blessing, and his uncle Laban out of a substantial amount of material wealth. (Full disclosure: Laban returned the favor in several unique ways.)
There was Moses, a stuttering murderer with anger management issues. Moses wasn't allowed to enter the Promised Land because he angrily whacked a rock he'd been instructed to talk to. (Have you ever been tempted to "hit" a problem rather than use your intellect and faith in God to deal with it?)
And so many others. David the adulterer and murderous conspirator. Solomon, the world-record holder for polygamy. Jonah, the reluctant missionary. Peter, who was capable of hypocritical behavior even after the resurrection of Jesus. And Paul, who held a grudge against a young man who bailed on him during his first missionary journey.
All of these people with issues. And all of them used by God to do His will, advance His Kingdom and bring others to belief. And yet, I wonder how many of them would you let into your church.
The fact is, we all -- all of us -- have "warts": proclivities and tendencies that at best can be described as objectionable, and at worst are downright criminal. And yet the same God that used Abraham and Moses and Peter and Paul for His purposes can use us as well, if we yield to His will and follow His leadership.
And we should definitely not discount the value of others of His creation, all of them made in His image and all of infinite worth. A little less faultfinding and a little more self-analysis and humility on our part might be in order.
Doug Chastain is a retired teacher and large-vehicle transportation specialist for the Siloam Springs School District. (OK, he drives a bus.) He is also a grass maintenance technician at Camp Siloam. (Yeah, he mows the lawn.) You can contact him at [email protected].