When a prostitute comes into church, in need of guidance and community and love and friendship, what do we do?
"Oh yes, we can help! God can help!"
And for the next few months, the prostitute obstains from prostitution. But then, she slips back--she goes back to her old ways on Saturday and returns to church on Sunday. Intervention, please!!!
"I'm sorry Mary, but if you're going to prostitute you can't be apart of the church." And so, Mary is shamed and looked down upon and thus, leaves thinking she is an outcast for good.
My question is this: how is Mary's problem different from the entire Church's wrestling with sin? Do I get asked not to come when I've slipped back into habitual sin, or addictive behaviour?
This situation happened recently at a friend of mine's church and I was so distraught over what I heard. "They did what???" Yes, they told her she wasn't able to participate in the "benefits and blessings" of the Church if she kept on sinning. This is not helping people think that our doors are open to everyone. I wonder what would happen if God would've asked this church member who asked the prostitute this, "Have YOU given up your life of sin? Totally, and completely?"
The same thing goes with the whole homosexuality controversy, and the belief that people must change first before they are welcome (or at least, admit they are struggling and detest what it is they seem to be caught in). I'm not really sure what The Church is trying to protect? I understand the importance and value of character, integrity, and reputation, but there's a difference between the Church's reputation and what the Church often projects as its reputation. Quite possibly the biggest reason why people are turned off from Christianity is hypocrisy; yet, haven't we---as the Church---created this problem? Instead of saying we are weak, and poor in spirit, and tired, and confused and in need of redemption, we say to the world: "We have answers! We have THE solution! We can make you into a better person! We can make you acquire blessings! We are almost perfect! We are for what's "right," not what's "wrong!" We are against abortion! We are FOR life! We are FOR war! We are way better than you, but if you come inside you might be able to be as good as us!"
Sure, I'm taking some things to an extreme but this seems to be it. We offer ourselves as models instead of God, and in the process, the world looks at us and laughs.
I know we're in a paradigm shift. I know this is radical and hard to articulate and hard to really work and live out in the way church is done, but we've got to do it: we need to stop asking people to wipe their feet at the doors of our sanctuaries, and start letting the carpet and pews and each other get a little messy.