When we love the people Jesus loved, we’ll get the criticism Jesus got.
And what was that? When religious folk saw who Jesus spent his time with, they slandered his character, rejected his message and presumed him unfaithful to God. “Glutton, drunkard, friend of tax collectors and sinners”, they sneered. (Yes, do say it with a sneer so you can catch the tone).
The same is true for any church reaching people far away from Jesus. When you include the people Jesus included–women in “complicated” relationships, men with anger issues, the addicts, the rejects, the braggarts, the sick, people weeping deep within a hole of failed dreams and fractured lives–you earn the same reputation Jesus earned.
I’m getting used to it now. The word is out. Apparently the church I pastor is becoming known as “that” church, the kind of church where (horror of horrors) anyone can go. Can you believe it?
Oh, that’s not quite how it’s said, no. Not nearly so nice. The kind of things said sound more like this:
- “Anything goes at that church. They must be soft on sin.”
- “They must not be preaching the truth over there or she wouldn’t be coming.”
- “There’s people that sleep around at that church.”
- “Clearly, they are liberal. Have you seen who started going?”
- “I met someone from that church, and they thought Jesus and Buddha were just both great teachers! They don’t preach the Gospel anymore.”
I could go on. It’s funny, because I think that’s pretty much what the religious prissy, the cleaned-up schmuck, the “we’ve-got-it-all-right-and-yet-somehow-missed-Jesus” folks said when objecting to Jesus’ parties, too. Rather than seeing the gathered people as signs of God’s kingdom breaking in, they slandered Jesus as unfaithful. To these religious watchdogs, “faithfulness” meant keeping people out, the very people Jesus insisted on bringing in.
So what do you do with that? Quell the rumours? Speak out to assure clean coffins everywhere that “we’re all okay over here”? Try to assuage the fear that we might be “a little too inclusive”? Go on the defensive?
Not a chance. Because here’s the thing: if the rumours are out there that the church is open to anyone–and I mean, anyone–that’s a good thing. If the word on the street is that you don’t have to be straight or clean or smart or happening to come to the Jesus party, then let the rumours fly! Not only will these rumours keep the kind of folks away who won’t help us love more people, but it’ll hold the door wide open for all those who’ve been intrigued by the invitation and are willing to step toward Jesus, even if they aren’t sure where that’ll take them. Rumours speak louder than anything we post, online or on the lawn, about “everyone” being welcome. And these rumours? They are spreading Jesus’ invitation wider than we could imagine.
So, yes. The rumours are true. Jesus is in the house, the party’s on and everyone’s invited. Even her. Yes, them. And him, too.