“Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Romans 15:7)
Recently there’s been a lot of conversation in the news about who it’s appropriate to welcome in our society. What about illegal immigrants? What about refugees from Muslim countries? What about transgender persons in the Boy Scouts?
While I certainly respect the right of anyone to have their own thoughts and opinion about such matters, those of us who claim the name “Christian” also have a responsibility to look to Jesus for our cues in our responses.
A careful study of scripture reveals that Jesus welcomed harlots and others sinners, people who disagreed with him (such as the religious leaders), people who some considered to be the “enemy” (such as the Romans), and even those who would go on to betray him (such as Judas). Bottom line: Jesus welcomed ALL.
And from that example, we as God’s people are called to do the same, regardless of what our government or pop society do. Welcoming others in the name of Christ doesn’t mean that we have to agree with their beliefs, values, or behaviors. But it does mean that we offer them respect and hospitality just as Jesus did for all people who he met.
A few years ago, someone shared a blog that (sort of tongue-in-cheek) described this kind of radical hospitality and welcome that we’re to imitate and have as God’s people:
“We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, gay, filthy rich, dirt poor, yo no habla Ingles. We extend a special welcome to those who are crying newborns, skinny as a rail, or could afford to lose a few pounds.
We welcome you if you can sing like Andrea Bocelli or like our pastor who can’t carry a note in a bucket. You’re welcome here if you’re ‘just browsing,’ just woke up, or just got out of jail. We don’t care if you’re more Catholic than the Pope, or haven’t been to church since little Joey’s Baptism.
We extend a special welcome to those who are over 60 but not grown up yet, and to teenagers who are growing up too fast. We welcome soccer moms, NASCAR dads, starving artists, tree-huggers, latte-sippers, vegetarians, junk-food eaters. We welcome those who are in recovery or still addicted. We welcome you if you’re having problems, or you’re down in the dumps, or if you don’t like ‘organized religion” - we’ve been there too.
If you blew all your offering money at the dog track, you’re welcome here. We offer a special welcome to those who think the earth is flat, work too hard, don’t work, can’t spell, or because grandma is in town and wanted to go to church.
We welcome those who are inked, pierced, or both. We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down your throat as a kid, or got lost in traffic and wound up here by mistake. We welcome tourists, seekers, doubters, bleeding hearts… and you!”
[--From “Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Community”, cited in the Blog of Jon Acuff (www.jonacuff.com/stuffchristianslike/2012/07/how-to-welcome-people-to-your-church)]
Wow! Those are tough words to live up to! But they describe an attitude that we are to offer to all people as God’s church, for -- in the words of Paul’s scripture above -- “just as Christ welcomed [us]… [we are to] welcome one another.” Dear Lord, may it be so at our church and among all the churches of God! Remember that He loves you and I do, too!