Each of you should continue to live in whatever situation the Lord has placed you, and remain as you were when God first called you. This is my rule for all the churches.
(1 Corinthians 7:17)
Relate: Using marriage, circumcision, slavery Paul gives three different points of reference to explain his point. I want to add a fourth: missions. If we were to go back a couple hundred years and we would find missionaries workig in Latin America, Africa, South Asia and East Asia all making the same colossal mistake over and over again. Thousands of courageous and God fearing men and women gave up their lives and careers to move to a strange land. They invested their lives in a strange culture with people who spoke a strange tongue. Their obedience and sacrifice and efforts are to be recognized.
But so is their failure. With rare exceptions, these missionaries went into these strange lands and did their best to make them… not so strange. They would invest huge amounts of time and effort to establish strongholds of European (and American) culture rather than trying to learn how to adapt to the culture they had joined. They would try to teach their converts to walk and talk and dress and act European. In their thinking, in this way they were making the local converts better Christians. Is it any wonder why many of these gifted and passionate missionaries would often go years, even decades before winning a new convert?
It is easy to sit back in pride, fold our arms and shake our heads at the mistakes these, well intentioned, godly heroes of the faith have made. It is easy to wear that smug grin and pride ourselves in the fact that we know better. We’ve moved beyond that. We don’t. We haven’t. Twice, years apart in very different situations I have seen this same mentality at work. On a Friday at youth group, we showed a very moving clip from John Q to illustrate the willingness of God to sacrifice his life for us. A young lady gave hear heart to Christ at the end of that service, but that didn’t matter to some. I was very nearly fired for showing a clip from a “secular movie” that would corrupt our kids. Even worse, that young lady came to church the next two Sunday mornings and left early both services angry. Multiple people in the church were making comments about her, within her hearing about her mohawk and nose ring. To my knowledge she has never been in a church again.
There was another young lady, in another town years later who had been coming to our youth group for a couple months. There were some deep conversations and she was open to Christianity. At least she was until she came to a Sunday morning service. There is a sweet elderly lady attending that church who is a saint and a hero with a heart of gold. She very sweetly offered to buy this young girl a hat to wear when she was in church. Apparently the student’s purple hair was a bit too much for this sweet old lady to take. I’ve kept in contact with this student in the intervening years and we can laugh at the moment now, but the fact remains, she never went back to that church for the two years or so I was still ministering there.
React: If you have been hurt by those in the church who are demanding a modern day circumcision, I apologize. If you have the misunderstanding that coming to Christ means you have to change your culture, your heritage, your style please understand this is not true. If you have gauges, piercings, ink… great. Come as you are. If you would rather wear cut off jeans than a three piece suit to church…. great, come as you are. If your hair is shaved to the scalp (like me) or flowing down your back, come. If you have a mohawk, mullet, wave, weave, fro or extensions… great, come as you are. Then let your neighbor, who is as “formal” or “stodgy” or simply as different from you as can be come as they are. God is about the business of changing hearts and lives, not clothes and culture.
God, help me not to be a roadblock to You through my judging. Help me to be open and loving and accepting of those who like and listen to different music than I do. God, forgive me for looking down on those of certain styles or cultures. I want to love everybody and see everybody just as You love them. I’m not there yet. I know it. Please, please help me to grow in this area. Those I’ve wronged or hurt, help them to forgive and forget. Please don’t let my failure to represent You well ever keep another from knowing You more.