“Burning in Church”
If you have any kind of practice of inviting your friends to some kind of church function, whether it be a worship service, a small group or whatever, you’ve probably heard the response, “If I step foot into a church building the place will burn down.” Of course, there are a lot of great variations to this. “If I step foot in church…God will laugh…Lightening will strike me dead, etc.”
I was in a conversation with a friend the other day and he pulled out the “God will laugh” line. I actually can’t count the amount of times I have heard someone use this kind of line in the last few years. Even if I am not “inviting” them to church, once they find out that I am a pastor, people will usually offer up some way in which something violent would happen to them or the people around them if they were to ever put a foot near something church related.
I always hate when people say this because I believe it is such an unfortunate misunderstanding. Whether this is the church’s fault or not (I would be inclined to believe there are many different things at fault here, with the church being a major one), I always struggle with how to best respond in a loving way.
Of course, my usual, wimpy response is, “ah, come on, that’s not true” and then I make some kind of joke and make light of the statement. I always want to say something that would help them see that this was just not true, but usually I am at a loss for words and I am a bigger wimp than I want to admit.
So, when my friend said that the other day, I was again at a loss. As I was driving home, his response wouldn’t stop going through my mind. I wanted him to realize that was simply not true. Right then, about 10 minutes too late, I was reminded of the story of prodigal son and I realized that the best response is so very simple.
No. God would not laugh. God would not strike you dead. God would not burn down the building.
God would rejoice. God would throw a party in heaven. God possibly would cry tears of joy.
So, next time someone says that to me, I hope my response will be simple. I hope that they can see that God loves them just the way they are. If for one second they could see that God was not up in heaven pissed off at them and ready to smite him at first chance, than perhaps they could get a glimpse of hope. If for one second, they could get a glimpse of the loving Jesus who sat drew water with a woman with seven husbands, sat down to eat with the despised tax-collectors, touched the unclean and outcast lepors and loves someone like me…