Today I was flipping channels and I stopped by Joyce Meyer's show. Have you ever seen it? She's a pretty well known preacher whose vibrant energy makes her message pretty interesting. I haven't heard much of her so if you have some reservation against her please don't hold it against me. In the few minutes I listened to her preach she said something pretty profound. She said:
"The Church sits around and prays for revival but the Church isn't ready for revival because the kind of people that would come to revival most Christians wouldn't want to sit next to."
It's a strong statement but it's so true. In order for revival the Church must open itself to and heal its relationships with the outcast of society especially those who the church itself has outcast. We need to learn the art of dining with sinners (Jesus knew how to do it... see Luke 15.1-5), loving our enemies, and declaring the Kingdom in the lives of those who have for too long been disregarded and rejected. God's love is unconditional why can't ours be the same?
Some people have this sick twisted idea that somehow the worse someone's sins are the worse the Church should treat them. Some people actually believe that God, the same God who sent His son to die on a cross, would reject someone because they've just sinned a little too much for His grace. I tell you that God accepts and calls everyone... everyone. We cannot exhaust God's love and forgiveness. Nothing… not murder, not rape, not robbery, not pride... nothing we can do can make God love us any less.
And so if God's love is such that cannot be extinguished then why should ours be any different? We, the Church, should be the best representation of God's love and acceptance. Before we can have revival we have to be able to sit next to the people we've closed our doors to in the past. And we also have to be ready to sit next to each other.
The Church doesn't just have relationship problems with people outside but also within. We've slapped labels on each other; emergent, liberal, conservative, dispensationalist, fundamentalist, etc. and we've placed ourselves within the boundaries of those labels. If you stay in your fundamentalist church and I stay in my "emerging" church and we never talk everything will be all right. This kind of thinking has crippled the Church. There has to be room for us to mix and mingle no matter how difficult or even painful it may be. The Church is a very messy thing it wasn't made to be tidy and neat. The problem isn't that we disagree it's that we don't know how to disagree. We don't all have to agree on everything to carry the banner of Christ but we do have to live together and learn how to disagree. For the Church to be what God intends for it to be we have to be ready to sit next to each other.
Tony Campolo said something along these lines: "Christianity is about loving the wrong kinds of people" and his assessment is right on. If you watch Jesus life and then watch the movement of the first Christ followers you can't miss this central fact; being a Christian means accepting the unacceptable, loving the outcast, and taking in those who have been pushed out. We have to learn how to love the wrong kinds of people.