“I won’t come in there,” the man replied. He was standing two feet from the entrance of the store, a Christian bookstore located in the center of a large shopping mall to be exact. It was where I worked a second job – not for the money – on the weekends. The man’s wife was inside the store shopping.
“Why,” I asked.
“I just won’t,” he replied. There was a look in his eyes, an expression on his face; the kind that tells me he felt unworthy of standing amongst the books, paintings, and gifts that represented a faith he saw as an exclusive club. In the same way I wouldn’t dare step on the football field with the New England Patriots as they set up for the opening kickoff, this man wanted no part of entering a domain he considered too foreign, too distant.
Having other customers to attend to, I didn’t research all the reasons he felt the way he did. I should have, because I still wonder what his answers would have been. And I wonder how many others feel the way he does? How many people see Christianity as a restricted society that does not support open enrollment?
The Bible makes it clear in John 3:16-17 (NIV) that the salvation offered by the Christian faith is all inclusive: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
God loved the world! That doesn’t mean He loved the planet. It means He loves all the inhabitants of the earth. It means that He does not want any to perish, to die the second death, or to fall victim to the wages of sin. He doesn’t want only the Baptist to escape death. He doesn’t want only the Jew to see Heaven. He doesn’t want only those that consider themselves to be righteous to seek out His Son’s salvation. No, He wanted the “whole world” to seek and find salvation, including the man who refused to enter the Christian bookstore.
I doubt I’ll ever see that man again. But if by some miracle he ever comes across some of my writings, I hope he stumbles across this particular column. I would want him to know how sorry I am that I did not encourage him to look further into the faith he found so exclusive. I would explain to him that I am not perfect, and that sometimes I believe I might say the wrong thing, presenting my Father’s promise in a way that does not accurately portray his love for His creation.
Christianity is an inclusive club. It is a faith based on a living hope, a present God, and a death-defeating strategy that only requires believing in the One that has already paid our lifetime membership dues. If there has ever been an all-encompassing call to the inhabitants of the earth, it’s the invitation that God sent to the world when He allowed His Son to be crucified on the cross 2,000 years ago.
I now see everyone I come in contact with as that man outside the bookstore, someone who does not want to come into a faith they think is exclusive. I now see very column I write as a way to reach out to the people outside the love of Jesus.
My words may not be sufficient, my efforts may fall short, and I may not be perfect. But if I can convince some to examine the Gospel of the One whose words are sufficient, whose efforts never fall short, and whose death-defeating plan is perfect, then I will have done the work I have been called to do; the work we have all been called to do.
Dan, nice article, and so true.Some people think that Christians are something special....but it is Him that changes hearts and lives, and He is the only 'special' part of us.We are all as 'filfthy rags', and Jesus came for the 'lost'......which we were once. I have a colleague who also felt 'not good enough' to be in church, or that God could love her.I wrote a little about it in,'Jesus Freaks, Misfits, and a little salt'.These are the very people that we should be reaching out to for Christ...otherwise we have become present day 'Pharisees'. God Bless You.
Awesome article Brother!!! This hits to the core on me and I'm sure other believers. I have been taught a hard lesson on not presenting the Gospel when God presents the opportunity. We don't have to be perfect, our obedience to His word is enough effort, so we won't fall short. We don't need to be eloquoent or fancy, we just need to present the plain simple Truth. God loves the world, the chance of salvation is equal across the board. His GRACE is sufficient. May He be praised by all the people. God bless and continue to use you for His mighty works. A servant in Christ, Christian