“Hug First, Ask Questions Later”

April 05, 2011

Tuesday Re-mix –

When it comes to church, how careful are you about whom you are seen with?  More importantly, when it comes to church, how careful do you think you should be about with whom you are seen?

I’ve been asking myself that question as I meditated recently on Galatians 2:11-21, the story about Paul confronting Peter because Peter seemed too concerned with what his Jewish brothers from Jerusalem might think about his hanging around with Gentiles in Antioch.  Here is how Paul puts it in Galatians 2:12: Before certain men came from James, [Peter] used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group.

At first blush I didn’t see this as a major problem worth addressing in my church, nor in any other reasonably healthy church.  But the more I think about it, the more I tend to believe that we in the American church really do struggle with this (actually I suspect that the church globally struggles with it, but I don’t want to point fingers at my international friends without much more experience than what I have).  I believe too many of us come to church as if it were some kind of country club, there for our convenience and happiness.  In fact, if it doesn’t make us happy, we might just go to some other church to find happiness.  Because that is what we think church is there for…our comfort and happiness.

And let’s be honest, there are a lot of people out there who, by their very presence, make some of us feel unhappy and uncomfortable.  They are different or dirty or smell funny or talk funny or they think very differently than you and I, or they disagree strongly with you and I on moral or political issues, and for these (or any of a number of other) reasons, we don’t really want to be around them.  More importantly, we don’t really want them in our church.

But it was the “church people” who used to watch Jesus and complain about the crowds with whom he walked.  They talked about Him behind his back, sneering at the kinds of people to whom He made Himself available.

And so I’ve begun asking myself a different question now: does anybody talk like that about me?  Are there “church people” out there who complain about the people to whom I make myself available?  If not…shouldn’t there be?

I once sent out a tweet asking for ideas about how to reverse a dangerous trend in the American church (the question actually involved how we shoot our own wounded, but that’s not the point of this post).  I got some interesting responses, but my favorite by far was this: “Hug first, ask questions later.” (Thanks @cultureguy aka Noble Bowman for the response).

I really like that philosophy for church.  I think it is just like Jesus.

© Blake Coffee

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