Many people have been ‘turned off’ by the church because they have been judged harshly.
Sometimes this judgement has come because someone has been divorced, or because someone is LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender), or because someone was living with their partner outside of marriage, or because someones beliefs don’t quite square with tradition Christian theology. In all of these cases, some self-righteous folks in the church have taken it upon themselves to speak for God and pass judgement on what is right and wrong, acceptable and not. This was not Jesus way.
In our Scripture story for the week (John 4:1-42) Jesus is talking to a Samaritan woman. In Jesus’ day Samaritans were judged harshly both because of their ethnic make-up (they were part Jewish but descended from the peoples of non-Jewish Samaria) and because of their beliefs (they disagreed with some key features of the Jewish faith, like the requirement to worship in the one temple at Jerusalem). Further, this particular woman had, apparently, been divorced a number of times and was currently living outside of wedlock.
But, instead of passing harsh judgment, Jesus was engaging this woman with the hope of gifting to her God’s overwhelming acceptance and God’s overwhelming sustenance. In short, Jesus was trying to invite the woman to see that, God is all she needs! Yes, Jesus did this in spite of the strict do’s and don’ts of the self-righteous church people of his day.
And YES, Jesus still does this today!
From John 4:23-24
But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship God in spirit and truth, for God seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship God must worship in spirit and truth.”
Regardless of whether our lifestyle or beliefs are in line with the strict adherents to ‘the tradition’ God seeks and accepts those who are seeking after God in spirit and truth.
Are you on that path? Do you know someone who is? Maybe it’s time to move beyond judgement and embrace the spirit and truth that inspires all sorts of people to worship God.