No Admittance Without…
Have you ever stood outside of a restaurant or store, with your hand already on the handle, just to realize that you aren’t welcome to enter? Oh no! What are we going to do? It is not a comfortable situation to be in and your mind either starts whirling with possible solutions or succumbs to angry words about the establishment.
The times I’ve faced this dilemma are few, but they are definitely moments I remember. Here’s a couple from my history.
- On a beach getaway, we realized once we got to the door of our favorite restaurant, that a couple of family members didn’t meet the requirements. It is a pretty casual place, so we never even thought about changing clothes until after we arrived and faced the Dress Code boldly posted on the door. Thankfully, a souvenir store was next door where inexpensive substitutes were quickly purchased.
- When rushing somewhere, in a nice dress, I realized that I didn’t bring my shoes. (May be hard to believe, but I’m barefoot quite a bit and learned to drive that way too!) Anyway, I can’t remember the details of this drama except for the fact that I had to have shoes on to get to where I was going. The only solution I could think of that would be economical and possibly gracious was a dollar store. I snuck in, hoping that no one would notice that I was barefoot - until after I could snag a pair of flip flops. Whew! I was so relieved when I made it up to the counter to pay for my purchase before management could escort me out of the store. A bit humiliated, I was now able to continue on to my next stop while styling my less-than-fashionable footwear!
Perhaps you have a story or two to tell as well. After the fact, these stories are often humorous, but they are definitely not funny in the moment.
…and neither is the possibility that our churches have a “No Admittance” sign posted from time to time. Now, I know that there aren't (hopefully) any actual signs on our church doors. And, we may not even be aware that others see a “No Vacancy” sign in their mind’s eye when they drive by. But, somehow, there are those in our communities that wonder if they would be welcomed – or even allowed – to attend worship with us.
Maybe or maybe not. That depends a lot on your current situation, neighborhood and church reputation. And, it may not have anything to do with your church at all, but everything to do with an individual's past experiences at a different church. There are many different messages that have been heard through the years – and even still in today’s world. People may not feel welcome because…
- they are of a different race.
- they have young children.
- of their reputation and history.
- they have body art or earrings.
- of their hygiene or financial status.
- they have mental or physical challenges.
- they left your church family years ago.
- of their hair color, clothing choices or even their shoes!
Have you ever asked the hard questions on this topic? To church leadership? To your husband? To yourself? Are your church doors open to all? What about the classroom that you teach in, the group you sing with or the ministry you participate in. How welcoming are you?
We can’t change the bad history that others have experienced in years past, but we can control if we're choosing to see others through God’s eyes. Are we willing to open the door and learn to forgive? Are we willing to take a risk? Are we willing to go the extra mile to see how we can make others feel welcome at our church – and maybe even in our homes.
It’s a tough question, but it is worth the asking.
"Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Romans 15:1, 7 & Luke 6:31
After all, why we do it is the key to building strong communities of faith - "in order to bring praise to God!"