When was the last time you were uncomfortable in church? Whether it comes from the many staring eyes or a dominant culture that expects you to act in a certain way, churches are often places of exclusivity.
Do you think Christ would be uncomfortable in your church? As a Jewish man with olive skin and long hair, who most likely smelled like sweat from living outside and grew up in a low-income neighborhood, would He be welcome sitting in the pew next to you? Would you recognize Him?
For those of a minority culture, or those who experiencing homelessness or other forms of inequality, the hushed tones and whispers can often lead them to wish they had never entered the sanctuary in the first place.
Although we often claim that the church is a hospital for sinners and not a museum for saints, we look at some people as too far gone and kick them to the curb.
We believe that everyone should not only be welcome but also embraced when they enter the house of God. The church is not a club with a bouncer but a home with a welcome mat.
What if we took a break from the judgment and the gossip and actually went beyond first impressions when we see others? What if we took time to hear people’s stories? If we truly believe that all people are made in the image of God, we should stop assuming that God only looks like us, wears our brand of clothing and drives our type of car (if they even have a car in the first place).
The book of Revelation describes heaven as a place of all tribes, nations and tongues. Yet, as Martin Luther King Jr. said, “It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.”
The “white flight” of the American church occurred when white and mostly Protestant churches fled to the suburbs because the increasing diversity of the city was seen as an increase in crime and danger. This history still mirrors and impacts our churches today. Not only that, but it can also be seen in our Christian universities and colleges.
Look at the people around you. For those of the majority culture, we see individuals who have the same race as us, who speak the same language, who come from the same socio-economic status and even the same denomination. We see ourselves reflected everywhere rather than seeing Christ.
God, the ultimate creator, designed every single shade of skin, every hair texture, every language and culture. Not only that, but he designed every human being and wrote their story regardless of their background.
If we truly believe that God is against discrimination and injustice, it is time that we start being the hands of Christ and grabbing the door handles of churches to swing them open wide. It is time to have the eyes of Christ, seeing His image in every person, especially those who are different from us in every way. And it is time that we look at the clock turn to 11 a.m. and then look around us, not to see ourselves and our culture, but instead, the beautiful kingdom of God.
Photo courtesy of Nagesh Badu