For those that were able to be at the prayer service on Sunday, Pastor Lloyd Gaines shared a great story – 2 actually.
When he was serving as Pastor of Mt. Olivet in the heart of DC, one Sunday as worship began, a homeless man walked in the front door and sat down. Llody noticed that the “regular” members of the congregation began to slowly move away from the man who didn’t smell or look that nice. After the service they told their Pastor, Lloyd, you have a problem here. On another day Pr. Gaines walked out the front door of the church to find a prostitute sitting on the church steps. He admitted as he told the story that in his mind on that day she didn’t belong. He told her she would have to move on, that she couldn’t stay there dressed as she was. She then responded, Pastor, please let me stay a few minutes, this is as close to God as I can get.
Stories like these are not unusual in Christian circles. While we have been taught to show honor and reverence to God by dressing our best for worship, it becomes quickly obvious when there are those who don’t fit in. While we stay in the right part of town, lock our doors and don’t get too close when someone looks a little rough, it must feel to some that God is giving the cold shoulder.
And I will admit this seems an impossible task. How can we love while being good stewards? How can we be vulnerable and generous and at the same time not be taken advantage of. How do we hold to the truths we believe, and yet care for those notyet there? These are the tough questions of Christianity, but they deserve to be asked. We must constantly challenge ourselves, am I seeing others as God sees them? Am I willing to sacrifice if God puts someone in my path? Am I willing to believe God desires all people to know him, and that he can in fact forgive all wrongs?
These questions are not new. We see Peter, the author of several books of our Bible, wrestling with them as well. In a dream God reveals the Gospel is for all. Not just those who have followed certain customs or traditions. Not just those who have a deep “those people” out. understanding of faith and truth and life. Not just those who seem to be “good people,” the kind we want as our friends. The gospel is for all. Jesus blood was shed for all, and it is strong enough, deep enough to cover a multitude of wrongs. Yes, repentance is a part of the plan, but let us not build walls to keep the gospel in and “those people” out.