Supporting, helping, learning, teaching, rejoicing, healing, loving, and forgiving; these are all characteristics of a healthy church community. I wish I could attest to these qualities residing in myself and in my relationship with others, but to do so would be lying and would not make these qualities appear. All too often we as Christians trick ourselves into believing we are superior because we go to church and read the Bible; similar to how IQ Tests decide exactly how smart we are.
Stereotypical assumptions often cause people to stay away from the church. In talking to peers and through personal experience, I have found that the church does not always feel safe, but harsh, accusatory and judgmental. We preach love and kindness, but practice damnation. How then, do we prove to society that this is not our intention?
One of the reasons I am proud to be a Quaker is that we believe God speaks to the individual, and that it is no one else’s job to decide who is and is not condemned. But Quakers are not perfect. The only way to break out of these stereotypes is to add “welcoming” to our vocabulary. Not simply, “welcome to our church,” but offering sincere hospitality and love. As written in Matthew, chapter 9 when Jesus is asked why he eats with tax collectors and sinners, Jesus says, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:12-13).
Every person needs to be treated equally and with as much love and respect as everyone else. Jesus calls us to love one another and lift each other up. No matter who shows up on the church steps, we need to welcome them into fellowship, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals of fulfilling the kingdom of God. Let’s take “hate the sin, love the sinner” a step further: hate your sins, love all sinners.