I had 2 very interesting conversations after church this morning. Each quite different, but each challenging in their own way.
The first was as I was heading through for a coffee. I was ‘collared’ and asked if I could explain something. “Why, ” I was asked, “did Jesus cry out on the cross that His Father had forsaken Him?” I was asked, apparently, because this had been bothering the person for quite some time and, since I was currently studying such things, then I might be ‘up on such stuff’. Thus ensued a conversation about Jesus being fully divine and fully human and the implications thereof. I’m sure I could have offered different/better explanations had I not been put on the spot, but what I said seemed to make some sense to the person. It does make me wonder though how many people wonder/worry about such questions and never pluck up the courage to ask, thinking that perhaps it’s a dumb question and something they ought to just know. As I have told people in the past, the only stupid question is the one you don’t ask.
The other conversation was, in some ways, more challenging. The person I was chatting to had tried a number of different churches and didn’t feel entirely settled in any of them. The only one that they had sort of liked was a local charismatic evangelical church but they had now moved away from that area and it was no longer local or so convenient for them. They liked it because that particular church ‘accepted anyone, regardless of who they were’. Further chat revealed that the person felt other churches were full of ‘good people, who were more sorted’. Judging others based on appearance, speech, behaviour, whatever, was this person’s biggest hate and they felt that too many churches they had tried did just that – immediately judged and ‘categorised’ visitors. We spoke about how churches, despite appearances, were ‘full of sinners’ and all too often those who were ‘inside’ lost sight of that. And, for that matter, so do those who are ‘outside’. How often do you hear comments like, “The church is full of hypocrites”? Anyway, we chatted about how those in church were no different from those outside, but many recognised that, in the light of the Gospel, they were very far from perfect. The big thing is acceptance. Most (not all) churchgoers realise that they are accepted by God, despite the sort of person they are. What they often forget is that the others they meet and see and ‘judge’ are every bit as accepted and that we are called to accept and love those others in the same way. The person said I’d given them a lot to think about. If only we’d all think a bit more about what being a Christian really means.