The woman shuffled slippered feet along worn carpet, eyes vacant, finally reaching the starched nurse at the head of the line. She held out her hands in supplication, receiving the tiny plastic cup, praying this time it would make the pain go away.
The man shuffled his Rockports down the aisle, eyes vacant, finally reaching the robed priest at the head of the line. He held out his hands in supplication, receiving the tiny plastic cup, praying this time it would make the pain go away.
The woman, Edna, and the man, Richard, met a few years later at a home group, knowing immediately they had nothing in common. She was a divorced mother of two, came from an abusive home and knew nobody, not even God, could love her. He had recently married for the second time, still carrying the scars from being driven from his church following his own divorce. He knew the church was full of hypocrites, liars and judgment. He hoped this group might be different.
The topic for discussion one Tuesday night was "unconditional love," but it might as well have been "bash the church."
Richard shared openly his frustration at the church that had thrown him out following his divorce.
"There may be such a thing as unconditional love," he said. "But it isn't in the church, that's for sure."
His tirade made Edna more comfortable sharing her own background, through tears and occasional sobs. She, too, had found her beloved church was a haven only so long as she was perceived as "acceptable" in her behavior. Divorce was not one of the sins they tolerated.
Another divorcee shared how a church pastor once told her that her handicapped child was God's punishment for being an adulteress.
Christians are sometimes their own worst enemy.
A Muslim scholar talking about witnessing in the Middle East had some harsh teachings last week. Rule number one was, never identify yourself as a Christian when speaking to a Muslim.
Muslims, he said, are under the assumption that everyone in America is a Christian. Their main source of information about people in America is television. So they assume, based on popular TV shows, that Christians are hedonistic, materialistic, violent and selfish. If you suggest to a Muslim that he become a Christian, he will likely run screaming for the nearest exit or attack you, the scholar said.
My wife and I, who minister to mostly Catholic Hispanics in a gang neighborhood, listened to the talk with one ear, wondering why on earth God had led us there.
The next day, we had our answer.
My wife knocked on the door of a trailer and was greeted by a man who looked to be of Middle Eastern descent. He asked suspiciously why we were delivering free bag lunches to him.
"Because we want you to know God loves you," my wife replied.
"Oh," said the man. "So you are one of those Christians!"
This was said in the same tone of disdain the Muslim scholar had described the night before.
"I am a follower of Jesus, if that's what you mean," my wife said.
The man's demeanor was instantly transformed. "Oh, we love your prophet Jesus! Did you know he is in our Koran?"
"Yes," my wife said. "And did you know your God is in our Bible?"
She then asked the man if it was OK for her to check his bag lunches to make sure the sandwiches were turkey, not ham.
The man beamed: "Thank you so much for respecting our traditions!"
We followers of Christ have to walk carefully these days, knowing how many people have been wounded by those professing to be Christians.
Home groups can be a great start, just gathering two or more followers of Jesus and feeling Him standing in our midst, healing our wounds as we learn to love one another.
The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
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