I experienced acceptance this weekend.
I experienced brokenness, pain, addiction, sorrow, abuse, and forgiveness.
Over Spring Break, I was down in Memphis, TN visiting some family before I left the country for the summer. Memphis also happens to be the grad-school home of my good friend Christy. Since moving to Memphis (a far cry from her small Illinois hometown), she has gotten involved deeply with a church called Jacob’s Well.
“Imagine a place where people come together from different racial, economic, and cultural backgrounds to work together to grow in the gospel and overcome racism, addiction, and poverty. Can you imagine this multicultural group of people on the fringe and those who have compassion for our city? I can. It is called Jacob’s Well.
People who are hurting throughout our city have been turned off by religion and religious people. Jacob’s Well is opening up the doors of a church, but offering a different experience. Those living in poverty have received handouts for years, yet the conditions in our city have only grown worse. At the same time, many enfranchised families desire to alleviate poverty in Memphis yet don’t know anyone personally who is poor. Memphis is thirsty; the living water of Jacob’s Well is plentiful. What better place than here? What better time than now?”
In this place, I met drunks, prostitutes, addicts of all kinds, and people who would go “home” to an underpass or a gutted building somewhere. As I watched and participated in the service, I felt like something was missing, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. And then I realized what I wasn’t seeing.
I wasn’t seeing judgment. I wasn’t seeing “Church Face”. I wasn’t seeing posing of any kind.
There were no snide remarks or looks of disgust. These people had been kicked around by life, but they were looking for more. They were looking for love and acceptance that (unfortunately) seemed to only be found from people who’ve done the same. These people were experiencing love in its rawest form.
The preaching that Saturday night was no holds barred. Bare and gritty, it was straight up. We know you’ve sinned. We know you’ve lost. But God remains. God has forgiven and you’ve been made new. God has called you, yes you, the sex addict, the drug dealer, the pimp. God has called you to turn and be a light to others. Give of yourselves to share with others the hope that you have found. Give all you have to help another.
It’s a far cry from many sermons that I’m familiar with. Preaching to give it all to help the dirty, the poor, and the “scary people”? No, we focus on becoming a better Christian and deepening our walk with Christ. These are all good things, but the title of the sermon at Jacob’s Well that night summed up my thoughts perfectly. “Faith Without Works Is Dead”. We claim to love others and see past their past, but I’ll bet that many people would not have felt comfortable in that building. It is so radically different.
It’s my prayer that I will love others like God loves them. I pray that I will be quick to listen, and slow to speak. I pray that I will humble myself before God and others, that I might glorify Him.
For His Glory.
“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” –Romans 15:5-7