I grew up in a fundamental religious home—a home filled with love and stability, no doubt, yet strict religiously. I thought God was an angry old white man with a long beard who sat in heaven on His throne with a lightning bolt in His hand waiting for me to mess up so He could zap me with it. A vivid memory remains for me from a youth group camping trip when I was in the 8th grade. We were sitting around the fire and having “deep” spiritual conversations with the pastor. Being the deep spiritual kid I was, I posed a question to the pastor I was sure he would have to wrestle with before answering.
Through her tears she told me how the doctor had told her if she tried to carry the baby to term that she could die. Without hesitation I said to her, “Then you should have died with the baby.”
I cringe now as I read those hateful, judgmental words that flowed so easily out of my mouth. I do not support abortion. I believe life is precious and begins at conception. Even so, I have no right to be the judge of any woman who has had an abortion. If that same gal were in my office today I would be speaking to her about grace, love and forgiveness.
The foundational theme that God is building Shiloh’s Lighthouse Ministry upon is in our purpose statement—“Seeing ALL people through the eyes of Jesus.” If you study the life of Jesus you must come to the understanding that He spent His time among the people—the common, non-religious folks who had “issues” that were easily judged by the religious establishment. He came to set us free—not to hold us in religious bondage. Last Friday at a local Pub, a benefit concert was held to help raise funds for the ministry. That’s right—we held an event in a bar to raise money to support this ministry. Three local bands volunteered their time and talent to perform; the waitresses donated their tips, and the Pub owner’s designated $5 per person cover charge—he gave all of it to SLM.
If curse words send people to hell, then many of the musicians there must be headed straight to it. Yet there they were, donating time and talents, because they had heard we had had our praise band musical equipment stolen—and to them, this was an awful thing; they wanted to help us, and their fellow ‘brothers and sisters in music,’ to regain our music gear. These heavy metal, tattooed, screaming misfits (any ‘typical’ church would judge them as) wanted to help us out! … When so many ‘Christians,’ who have heard about the theft of our musical equipment … have done nothing to come to our aid …
After each set I thanked the musicians involved. When the second band finished I was talking to the lead singer (Okay—screamer, but he gave it all he had) and his buddy who had come to the benefit. When I introduced myself as the pastor he said to me, “Pastor I’m F***ing sorry for all of the cussing I did up there, I tried to sensor myself. When we heard about what happened to your church we just wanted to help out.” He and his friend (who is a PK) then went on to tell me of their religious upbringing and how they just can’t find a church that accepts them. I hugged the young man and told him I was thankful for his time and talent, and that what he did was honoring God that night. I asked them if they knew John 3:16. In unison they said, “Sure! For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
I then asked them if they knew what the next verse said. They had no idea. I recited it to them.
After telling them what that verse was, I said, “Guys—God loves you and wants to have a personal relationship with you through His Son Jesus. He does not want to condemn you.”
They both took a step back and audibly gasped … then they shouted out, “Awesome!” and gave me high fives. I told them my church is open to them any time as well as my office door. There standing in a bar, a place where, as I child, I was taught to even enter such an establishment would assure my place in hell, I was able to share God’s love and grace with two young men who needed to hear it. Are they living perfect sin free lives? Of course not … are you, am I?
The doors at SLM are open to anyone—no matter their race, their beliefs, their sexual orientation, their profession, their social status or, even if they are Michigan State fans! God loves us all and it is not this pastor’s job to be their judge. My job, along with the others in this community of faith and love, is to ‘see everyone through the eyes of Jesus.’ It’s all about love!
Keep the faith ...