What has your church experience been in the past? Have you entered a building that feels like a museum for good people who are quick to point out your mistakes, or did you encounter a group of people who love on the broken without condemning them for the things they did to become broken?
Unfortunately, too many people experience the first type of church and leave without ever looking back. The word Christian has become associated with words like judgmental, hypocritical, angry, fake, cliquish, unloving, unforgiving, and many other negative words.
For a while, I didn’t like being called a Christian. I felt like that immediately turned people off, and I would always correct people with something like believer or Christ follower. I wasn’t sure how to handle this label even though I had always proudly embraced it.
What I’ve learned is that I don’t care if I’m called a Christian, believer, Jesus freak, or whatever. In reality I am a God loving, Jesus talking, Bible reading, people loving person, and it’s not really important what label I’m given. What’s important is that the people leave my presence feeling uplifted and encouraged rather than belittled, condemned, and hated. When people are around me, I want them to feel like they’ve felt a touch of Jesus’ love.
Am I saying I’m perfect? Absolutely not, and I will be the first to lay down the things that make me not perfect. Am I saying I’m like Jesus? Nope, but I am saying that I try my best to radiate his light for others to see and, most importantly, feel.
I certainly have my faults and my bad days, and not everyone leaves me every time feeling happy and uplifted. I wish it were so, but it’s not. I have my days. I get frustrated. I yell. I say something hurtful. I feel horrible about it after. I apologize. It’s the only thing I have to give after letting my light grow dim – apologize sincerely. That’s all any of us can really do.
How to Be a Hospital for the Broken
Each of us have been broken at one time, and many are still broken in certain areas. How can someone be accepted in church when it’s filled with people who define them by the mistakes they’ve made (because the mistakes seem to be noticed more than the good things, right)?
It starts within you and me. Begin to become the person, broken as you may be, who loves on others who are broken. Here are a few ideas to kick start your own hospital for the broken:
- Desire to be like Jesus with complete understanding that you can’t reach his level of perfection. Just spend time with him and let his love and perfection bleed out onto you. You’ll mess up, but he stays by you during those times. Let him help you fix the messes you make (we all make them).
- Get it out of your head that you can’t be close to God unless you’ve followed certain rules perfectly. That’s not at all true. All he asks is that you want to walk with him. He loves you where you are. He wants you to be a better you, but he doesn’t push you away when you aren’t following your “list” of rules. The more you want to have a relationship with him, the more rules you find yourself following without even thinking about it. Understand it’s a process to get to that point.
- Don’t point out when someone isn’t following “the rules.” How many people have been literally pushed out of church because the members didn’t like something they did, said, wore, or believed? Too many to count. This video asks if Jesus would be welcomed in your church. Are you the type of person who would welcome him, or are you the type of person who would gossip about him? I mean he worked on the Sabbath, rescued a prostitute (a couple of times), and healed demon possessed people. Don’t forget he allowed a previously possessed woman to be the first to see him after he rose from the grave. Would you be quick to question his intentions, or would you see the work of the hand of God moving over the lives of those people? Matt 12 shows that the Pharisees are quick to point out Jesus and his disciples breaking the laws by working on the Sabbath. The Pharisees cared more about religion than they cared about people. Which is your priority?
- Love people where they are. Jesus loves you where you are, so try it out on someone else. You don’t agree with their decisions? Instead of pushing scripture in their face telling them they’re going to Hell for those decisions (or writing them on poster boards to protest something), show the same love, compassion, grace, and mercy Jesus did (does).
- Don’t push. Did you know you can reach people for God much more quickly and easily by your actions than by your words? On top of that, the effects are real and lasting for the other person. When you push people, you either push them away, or you are “successful” and push them into a prayer for salvation that isn’t meaningful and not real. It is the Holy Spirit who softens their hearts, and they are the ones to decide if they’re willing to accept him. We don’t have that kind of power, so don’t feel the need to be pushy.
- Welcome them. No matter how broken, addicted, fallen, or crude; no matter the clothes, hair, makeup, or lifestyle; welcome them with open arms. More than anything, that’s what they need, and it’s through that kind of action they will come face-to-face with Jesus and his love and grace.
YOU are the church. Are you perceived by others as a person cold to outsiders who don’t fit your idea of perfection, or are you perceived as a hospital for the broken to come and be healed in the name of Jesus?