“Come as you are.”
This was the phrase that we shared countless times in the beginning days of our church.
At any given time you could (and still can) see any number of people with creative tattoos and dressed in jeans, shorts and t-shirts. All things that were typically taboo in more traditional churches.
One day my dad asked me if he would be welcome in a coat and tie. I told him he ought to wear something more casual because we didn’t wear coats and ties at Journey. His response….
“Well, if you are going to tell people to come as you are, you should also accept people who wear coats and ties, too!”
He was right (though I don’t think he ever did wear a tie and rarely a coat).
Today, the pressing issues in the church revolve less around what you wear or if you have a tattoo. Instead, we separate each other based on world views, social issues, and political parties…just to name a few.
I still remember the disdain in church people’s voices as they called out those who didn’t “wear their Sunday best” or carried a different version of the Bible than they did. Those who were seeking a community of faith were sometimes met with a community of judgment.
As much as we like to think we have grown, we still have far to go.
The issues may be different, but the solution is still the same.
Can you love someone who votes differently than you or spends their money in ways you wouldn’t?
Can you love someone who is pro-choice? How about pro-life?
Can you love someone who voted democrat in the last election? How about someone who voted republican?
How do you feel about people who smoke or drink or do drugs? Do their choices make them unloveable?
Do your choices make you unloveable?
How about someone who has a different skin color than you?
What about someone who is super rich…or super poor?
What about someone that can’t stand you?
Choosing to love someone means that we look past everything that separates us and connect with everything that brings us together.
We have a shared humanity. A shared human experience.
We have a shared need for Christ and we equally share His love and His grace.
We have a shared hope for our families and shared need to be accepted just as we are.
We have a shared calling to grow and to love more freely…
The answer is always to love people as they are and not just to get them to become something else. That is the job of the Holy Spirit, not us.
The good news is that you can love them and you don’t even have to agree!
Of course God has an opinion on all of these things and the church should teach God’s truths clearly, but that does not mean we are supposed to withhold love. In the parable of the wheat and the tares, Jesus goes so far as to say we should leave unbelievers untouched even among those who call themselves Christians. He will sort it all out in the end.
Instead, we have the calling and freedom to simply love.
When you choose to love, you choose to forgive offenses and you choose to see a deeper value in front of you.
When you choose to love, you take the time to get to know someone and help carry their burdens in any way you can.
When you choose to love, you choose to follow the example of Jesus and the greatest commandments.
When you choose to love, you demonstrate what it means to be a follower of Jesus, even when it’s not easy.
When you choose to love, you show the world that you are a disciple. So let them “come as they are” and love them.
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34–35 (ESV)