You know how it is: someone makes a chance remark and the blessed thing festers and grows hot within the cerebral corpuscles.
I am guilty of it. You are probably guilty of it. We are all likely to be guilty of it. Do I mean any harm? Do you mean any harm? Do any of us mean any harm whatsoever? No, of course not. Do I do what I do out of a sense of love? Yes, for sure I do! Same for you. Same for us all.
If you are in the seat of power that is the typed word - typed for the use of an audience, and more especially in the branch offices of "God is Love Plc", you will have lovingly and unwittingly committed this crime over and over - so much so that, like fraudulent expense claims, it becomes a part of the mindset, an automatic thing. It happens without so much as a 'by your leave'.
How often have you typed, or read the familiar words: "Join us" or "Come and Join Us"? Millions, I should imagine - if you are like me, an inclusive kind of guy.
Until the red-hot coal was dropped into my thinking recently, I would have been none the wiser - but now - oh no - clarity is mine. So, you read the words "Join us".
What do those words say?
1. That we believe that there is a division between "you" and "us"2. That "you" are on the outside, whereas we "us" are on the inside3. In having what we think "you" want, we "us" hold the trump card and therefore a measure of power over "you"4. "You" have to do the walking, because "we" have arrived and are settled5. There is am implicit line to cross before "you" become like "us"6. "You" are different to "us" on our terms, not yours7. "Joining" is on our terms, not yours
I press the point mercilessly, but the point needs making. In our churches, surely "All are Welcome". Our churches are no more "ours" than "theirs" - it is just that they have yet to take the seat reserved for them by none less that the Celestial Maitre 'D.
In summary, there is a conspiracy (a silent loving and gracious one) to create a division between those on the inside and those on the outside. It is the same reason why I find the term "un-churched" so offensive. It implies a supremacism that just doesn't exist. Yes, by our baptism we take our place as members of God's own family - but we can sometimes take that as a sign to differentiate between us the pew-fodder and the oh-so-precious street wanderers. I wonder how any of us would feel if we we read those gracious words and applied them to our journey through those big oak doors for the first time.
In any instance, and whoever you are, may I pray God's endless blessings upon us all for the new year ahead. May we thank the Lord who has never made "us" feel like the outsider!
Note to self - review every page of the website - lots of these sins are evident!!