Depending on how you respond to those questions may help you connect with what I'm attempting to communicate.
I'm an observer. Perhaps it has something to do with the variety of people and situations I grew up around. That is one blessing about my parents divorce that I can acknowledge. I grew up interacting in families of different religious beliefs, ways of handling problems, socioeconomic status, and ways of expressing love. Each group of family had an impact on me whether I felt like I belonged or not. These people shaped my world view and I'm glad for it. It has provided me with the capacity to find good in people that don't look, speak, or feel the way I do about something. It helps me see the human in them.
As an observer, I mostly felt disconnected, on the outside looking in. This was not their fault but just the way it was. As an adult, less consumed with my own grief, I notice the ones who might otherwise get overlooked, or worse, rejected.
Have you ever thought about how hard it might be for some "outsider" to come in to church? Like really, would it be natural to come? I guess it depends on the situation. Some of us get to a point where we are simply tired of doing it on our own and come running to God and stop caring what others think. Others may take longer, if ever.
Consider this. People stand waiting to greet at the doors of a church. A person comes in and hopefully feels welcomed. Maybe they come to an event later or try to connect. But the people inside don't know how to connect. They don't understand the person's struggle or challenge or simply don't feel comfortable with them. Maybe the other person is avoiding eye contact or looks busy so we pass on by.
Without meaning it, are we pushing people out of the building we prayed for them to get to, away from the only Savior of the world?
Has someone asked for help directly, or maybe in a way that you had to read between the lines, and you ignored them? Do we then make an effort to connect them to someone else if we don't know how to talk to them? Make some acknowledgment that they reached out?
People that reach out and get ignored may not reach out again. Or maybe they will just reach out to a different religion or substitute for the One True God. I don't intend to be harsh or critical of the church. But I have been contemplating writing this for a couple weeks and it is coming from a place of truth. If I offend anyone, that is not my intention. My heart is crying out for the broken people, the
shamed, the ignored and rejected.
No one is without blemish (1 John 1:8 NIV, Ecclesiastes 7:20 NIV). We all struggle and its a two way street. People should not expect to come into a church and have some magic wand waved and life is beautiful. That is simply not real but they may not know that. I didn't understand and I grew up in church. Let's challenge each other to love others as ourselves (Mark 12:31) and to make amends when needed.
Are you connecting the way you want to or the way God is asking you to? Have you felt Him nudging you to step outside of your comfort zone? Or are you stretching yourself too thin trying to serve that you aren't seeing someone right in front of you that needs you? Let's all walk a little slower, smile a little more, open our eyes a little wider, and tune our ears to the Father. Put your love glasses on!
If you have felt ignored or rejected please don't stop reaching out to Jesus. One unpleasant experience or misunderstanding may be what you need to get you where God wants you. I honestly think that is what happened to me. I got mad and then I pursued Jesus much stronger. Looking back I can see why God allowed it to happen. I grew tremendously through the process.
"Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God." Romans 15:7 NIV
"Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling" 1 Peter 4:9 NIV
"If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even the pagans do that?" Matt 5:46-47 NIV
Jesus, Thank you for helping me to recognize the blessings I've gained from challenges. Thank you that you can use my pain for good. Help me to shine a light in dark places. Guide me to use my words wisely and with caution to honor You. I don't want to be afraid to use my voice but I want to speak only what is for good. You provide instruction, and it is good and perfect. Help me to understand and appreciate your holiness. Thank you for interceding on my behalf, Jesus. My sin has a price that You paid. I pray this in Your Name, Amen.