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All Are Welcome?
Brett Anderson ©2002

This week's thort is the kind of thing that in particular our churches need to be hearing or living out, so if you are a pastor or church leader I hope you will take special notice, but it does have relevance for each one of us in the way we view and relate to people.

Matthew 7:1-5

"Do not judge or you too will be judged. For in the same way as you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take that speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."

That passage is going to be the backbone undercurrent of what I am going to be talking about, but Matthew 9:10-13 deals with it more directly so let's take a look at that:

"While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and 'sinners' came and ate with Him and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked His disciples, 'Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?'

On hearing this Jesus said, '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.'"

And that is pretty much what I want to look at and I'm sure a large number of you would agree with where I'm probably going with this. Yes, those verses tell us that we should be out in the world hanging out with sinners and spending time where they hang out like clubs, and the workplace and the sports field and the gym. Wherever we come into contact with sinners we must be salt and light and show Jesus to them so that they can be saved and cleaned up and sorted out and then come to church with us?

But while I do think it is of vital importance that Christians are 'out there' being involved in the lives of non-Christians and living out and speaking out a life that displays Christand the Kingdom of heaven, that is not where I am going with this today.

I'm talking about the other side of things - what happens when a non- Christian comes to our church? Is it a place where they are going to be welcomed? - is it a place where they are going to FEEL welcome? - is it a place they are likely to see Jesus being lived out? - and is it a place where they are likely to want to come back to?

I heard this principle I've been thinking about for a long time defined so well by a church I attended, making it pretty simple and straightforward to understand - it is the triple-B principle (that's just the fancy name I'm giving it cos it's made up of three words starting with B - it actually didn't really have a name til then so don't let that put you off)

Three words - BELONG - BELIEVE - BEHAVE - that define a person in terms of their journey into the life of a church or even their life as a Christian I suppose.

This is a value of the church that I am attending at the moment that they place a huge emphasis on and it makes a lot of sense.

Firstly the person must BELONG. The person must feel welcome into the church and find it a place where they can meet with and get to know God as well as God's people. They must discover the church as a place where the two big 'rules' are in action - [1] Love God and [2] Love people and where those two cover everything else that happens there - is that the case in your church?

Secondly the person will be brought to a place where they will BELIEVE - having experienced the Love of God through His people, having had their heart challenged by the gospel and through the intervention and conviction of the Holy Spirit, the person will hopefully come to the point where they believe that they are a sinner and that Jesus died in their place as a substitute for them and will accept Him as Lord and Saviour of their lives...

And here's the trick... ONLY at this point of the journey does the BEHAVE part kick in but yet this is where we often get it wrong.

The Pharisees did in Jesus' day - how can He associate with people that live the wrong way? You should be hanging with us, the ones who look right, dress right, worship right, live right and behave right (the irony being that they didn't really do all those things anyway and the fact that they judged instead of loving showed that there were errors in their way of living and worship and speech etc)

But what about our churches today? First you must stop being a homosexual and then you can come to our church - firstly you must stop sleeping with your boyfriend and then you will be welcome to our church - stop drinking/smoking/taking drugs and then it is okay for you to come here... - if you do this, then you can hear about God.

But are they not the very people who are needing God? Are they not the sick ones who are needing the doctor? Are they not the ones with the gaping hole in their lives needing some love and acceptance and salvation to fill it right up?

I think that the church has definitely got it mixed up when they change the order of the three B's and insist that people must behave right before they can belong and believe. The reason for this is that their behaviour is God's responsibility, not ours. We can share the Word of God with them and challenge them on certain issues, but it is God who does the convicting and who will ultimately judge everyone and so that responsibility should be firmly His. How many people have we chased out of our church buildings because they have not behaved right? or dressed right? or done the right actions to the songs? or prayed in the way we like?

This whole issue does go a step further which I'm not going to go into now but 1 Corinthians chapter 5 deals with the church kicking people out - but the heading is "Expel the immoral brother" and it is talking about judging someone who professes to be a Christian and then is actively involved in sin. "What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? (meaning those who have not made a commitment to Jesus) Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside." (verse 12-13a)

Church should be a place where people can come and meet with God and with other people wanting to do the same. It should be a place reaching out to the community where people 'on the outside' so to speak feel like they will be welcomed and loved not because they are doing all the right things but because there is a God who loved them so much that He died for them.

And lastly, just where do we think we get the right anyway? When we stand at the cross we are EXACTLY the same as any other bad/vile/wicked person and so we should be looking at them with the same grace and mercy that God has showed us.

Let's move our churches away from being social clubs for the happily saved and more towards outreach centres for the poor and the widow and orphaned and abused and hopeless and homeless...

After all as it says in 1 John2:6 "Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did."

So we have to ask ourselves, What Would Jesus Do? and I think that that has already been made quite self-explanatory - we already know....so let's go out and do hokay?

BELONG - BELIEVE - BEHAVE

[Accept - Welcome - Love - Get to know - Unjudge]