When I was a little kid there was a country club my family drove past several times per day on our way to run errands and back home again. One day, I remember asking my dad why we weren't members of that country club. He chuckled, now I understand there was no way we could have afforded it. But he said something to me that I will never forget. He said, "That used to be a segregated club - whites only, so we won't be members there even if we could."
I recently published my first book. As soon as it hit Amazon I began to feel nervous and anxious. I wasn't so concerned with people liking it, per se, but I knew some things might strike a nerve or two. I also didn't plan to publish a book about Jesus during a pandemic and time of such political and social strife. The news is filled with stories of overflowing ICU units or cities on fire. Racial tensions resemble what I used to read about it history books. Nothing in my book is particularly controversial except Jesus. He's very controversial - you either like Him or you want nothing to do with Him. So I was feeling a bit nervous for people to encounter Him through my eyes.
I have been humbled and moved to tears by the feedback I have received so far. I've also been saddened and shocked. Readers have shared how they have been so hurt by the church that they knew they still believed something but felt they could never go back. Some shared they were thankful to feel seen. Another reader told me she was challenged to put away certain beliefs that were hindering deeper relationships. Wow. Just wow.
I'm not shocked about the church hurting people. I have experienced that, too, many times over. But deep down, I knew it was people who hurt me, not Jesus. What I do see in all of these comments is that just like that country club, our churches are often segregated, too. Not necessarily by color, although they say Sunday is still the most segregated day of the week. I'm talking about segregation by sin. What stands out to me by the comments I'm receiving is that some people have been accepted by their churches and some have not and the deciding factor was the type of sin with which they struggled.
Country club Christianity clutches its pearls at the sin it can't understand. Some sins are much easier to handle than others. We are happy to help dry out the drunk but the sexual pervert? Well, they need not apply. Don't get me wrong, we need protect the vulnerable but church isn't all about Sunday school and teen programs. How many of we church goers are going TO the one who can't step foot in the door? If there's anything I learned during this pandemic it's that church doesn't just exist with four walls. The people ARE the church, carrying God's Holy Spirit within them - so - why not take that Spirit to the ones who need it the most?
Instead of clutching our pearls at some sins and excusing others, believers in Jesus Christ should be grabbing the hand of every sinner helping them to clutch the hem of His garment. We need not segregate ourselves and our churches by acceptable and unacceptable sins. And now I understand more fully from the comments I'm receiving how lifelong wounds are formed and relationship with the One true God is hindered.
As our nation grapples with the threads of racism and de facto segregation that still exist, I pray we would do the same within the Church. I truly believe God's greatest desire for His church is unity not a segregated country club.