My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others? James 2:1
In Texas, one of my friends lived right across the street; however, to enter her neighborhood, you had to put in a code so the gate would open. The gate blocked outsiders from entry.
I wonder if Naomi and Ruth felt this way when they returned to Israel. Did they experience the invisible, yet very real, barriers to community? According to the commands given to Moses recorded in Leviticus, God did not intend for the widow or the foreigner to be treated marginally. Thankfully, Boaz, who displayed the character of our Father God, ensured that Naomi and Ruth were protected, cared for and welcomed into his family.
Unfortunately, the church can be a lonely place, even for someone who is a child of God. Invisible gates bar access to closer community. Some people seem to gain entry into the inner circles and are more easily included. For others, they just can’t seem to get in without the code and secret handshake. Unfortunately, I have felt this way after following the steps, doing what was requested, yet still not welcomed. If this happens more than a couple of times, someone may get frustrated with the whole church experience.
The church should absolutely NOT be a gated community. There should not be formidable obstructions to keep someone out. There should not be (invisible) fences making someone feel they do not belong. In Matthew 5:47, Jesus challenges us by declaring if we only greet our brothers, how are we acting any differently from the world? Jesus chose to die a publicly humiliating and excruciatingly painful death so we would be welcomed into His household. How petty of us to pick and choose who fits in better or is more desirable for our church communities. Maybe it is actually a compliment if the world notices, “Look who they welcome through their church doors.”
In Matthew 25, Jesus describes what will happen when the Son of Man comes in His Glory. Some standing in judgement before the King will ask, “When did we take care of you? “And the King will answer, “Truly I say to you, to the extent you did it to the least one of these you did it to Me.” As God’s ambassadors, let us offer open doors not locked gates.