Must Our Church Accept All People

Many churches, both local and denominational, refuse to accept that some people are worthy of worshiping with them. Some even go so far as to use portions of the Bible to justify this discrimination.

I must assume that those people are reading a different book than I do. My Holy Bible speaks of love and inclusion, not hatred and exclusivity. The most well-known verse in the Bible is John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." There is nothing in these words that excludes those who are different. It doesn’t say just males, just clergy, just members of a certain denomination, just the "right" people, or even people of a particular sexual or gender orientation. It says anyone who is willing to accept the supreme sacrifice that He made for us will be saved.

Jesus declared the two greatest commandments to be "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. ... Love your neighbor as yourself.1" Again, He gave no limitations. There must be no limits to our love.

The apostle Paul wrote to the fledgling Roman church, "…Why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.2" As John said in the verse immediately following the most famous "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world3…" Judgment is God’s job and He reserves that responsibility totally for Himself.

And yet God wants that job to be easy. In Peter’s second letter, he states that God is, "Not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.4" Again the scripture is all-inclusive. "Everyone" means just that – everyone. Who are we to second-guess God in this?

Paul further urges us to be welcoming, "…Make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way. Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.5" We must welcome all comers to our presence, and even more, be willing to share with them – and more so, be willing to learn from them as well10.

Many churches feel that letting sinners in is a bad practice, so they exclude some who they feel are sinning. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.18" If you see a sinner, why not work to "gently correct20" them, rather than condemn them to the darkness?

Many believe that those they feel are unfit for their church are visited with evils to punish them. This is not what I see in my Bible; actually it is often the believer who is tested. "For you, O God, tested* us; refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. … But you brought us to a place of abundance.6" When Jesus was questioned about the sins of the man born blind7, He replied that the man was born blind not because of sins, but "that the work of God might be displayed in his life." And John, the Revelator, was told to write to the church in Smyrna that some would be put in prison to be tested. Those whose hearts have been "hardened" need not be tested – their punishment is eternal!

But those who believe in Christ and come to us must be welcomed: "Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.8" Mark Twain said, "Actions speak louder than words, just not nearly as often." We must open our doors, hearts, and minds to all who come to us. Just saying, "God loves you" is not enough; we must show them God’s love.

We often hear sports people talk of a "homefield advantage." Is that not what these visitors to our church just handed us - the homefield advantage? They are on our turf where we have all our tools around us to gently correct them, to proclaim the good news13.

Matthew quotes Jesus, "You are the light of the world. … Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.9" Each of us is the only God that many see; it is imperative that we be the best God we can be. We can do that only by knowing what He wants us to do – and then doing it.

Paul cautions us, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing, and perfect will.10" For many of us the Bible might be, at times, confusing or difficult to understand. We must also sharpen our minds by rubbing them against others – including that outcast that many churches have rejected.

God is still speaking, but since the canon is unlikely to be amended, it is through people that He gains a voice. The gift of prophecy is more often one of correcting the Church catholic. "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says the to the churches.11" "Everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement, and comfort. … He who prophesies edifies the church.12"

Luke records one of Jesus’ worship times, "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom to the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.13"

Some of us have been lacking a mission or vision for our lives. We’re not always sure about why we’re here, or what God wants us to do. But this mission was not just for Jesus – remember, "You are the light of the world." You are a guide sent to a confused and lost world. Satan is out there preaching false truths every day, every hour. We must, just as decisively, be demonstrating God’s love and acceptance every day, every hour, every minute.

Satan is about destruction and hatred. God is about creation and love. And He can create and love through us. John’s gospel explains it well: "Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that was made.14" It doesn’t say that He snapped His fingers and everything happened. He gives us the power to create if it is within His will. And He certainly commands us to love, which is an act of creation in itself.

Once again in Revelations, Jesus declares, "I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut.15" Why do so many churches believe that they can shut the Lord’s door? Those who seek the Lord will find Him regardless of your opposition. Would it not be better then to stand at that door with a smile and ready handshake or hug? Is it not better to proclaim freedom to the prisoners, to give sight to the blind, and to release the oppressed? Perhaps in giving these, we get some in return.

Peter also suggests that living as He commands will hasten the Kingdom on Earth16. Don’t we all want that?

We are to "Go and make disciples of all nations.17" Not just a few; not just the ones we like; not just the ones that are like us. Go to all nations – that is, all people. In Luke's Gospel we see Jesus sending 70 disciples (interestingly, this was the number of nations in the world at the time). Jesus knew that some would not accept their testimony and gave comfort to those who would be rejected19 and a word of warning to us today.

"Must our church accept all people?" How dare we not?

* In Biblical times, refining a precious metal, such as silver, was a lengthy process, which began by placing the raw ore in a large kettle over a hot fire. As the metal melted, the impurities (or "dross" in the KJV) floated to the top where they could be skimmed off. "Testing" meant that the smith could lean over the molten metal and see a perfect reflection of himself.

These verse references are linked to for your further study.

1 Mark 12:30-31

2 Romans 14:10

3 John 3:17

4 II Peter 3:9

5 Romans 14:13, 19

6 Psalm 66:10, 11, 12

7 John 9:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

8 Romans 15:7

9 Matthew 5:14, 16

10 Romans 12:2

11 Revelation 2:29

12 I Corinthians 14:4-:5

13 Luke 4:18-19

14 John 1:3

15 Revelations 3:8

16 2 Peter 3:11-12

17 Matthew 28:19

18 Romans 3:23

19 Luke 10:16

20 Galations 6:1

Further Reading