About twenty-five years ago, my family and I had relocated from Utah to Indiana. The community where we settled was undergoing a huge amount of change. It had become a bedroom community for many who commuted into Chicago and other nearby centers of employment. This influx of newcomers had greatly disrupted the lifestyles of the “old timers” in the community.
We found a church shortly after resettling. I can remember so well a story told to me by the pastor of that church describing the discomfort between the interlopers and the established, long-term residents. This is the story:
“A pastor was delivering the message at the funeral of a woman who died at the age of 99. She had been brought into this community at the age of one by her parents. She was baptized in the same church where her funeral was being held and had been a very active lifelong member of the congregation. The pastor began his message with ‘Although she was not truly one of us, we remember her fondly.’ “
I think we’ve all encountered situations like that. We seek to become “members”, to be accepted. Yet, no matter what we do or how we approach things, we remain “outsiders.”
Many churches are like that. Sometimes we see a situation where the “odd ball” WAS accepted. Far too often that is not the case.
In our Christian lives we do establish close relationships. That is a part of “being in communion” not only with Jesus but with fellow Christians.
What we must guard against is doing so to the exclusion of others who would join the community, who seek that communion with Jesus and the fellowship of like believers.
At times, we must take a step outside of our tightly held circles and look back in through the eyes of others. What is it that they seek and how are we responding to their needs?
Only then can we open the circle, expand it to grow the Body of Christ.