Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Welcome Mat

Like Kim, I remain mesmerized by the Passion Play performances I was able to watch from Palm Sunday through Resurrection Sunday. Each year the Lord gives me something new to really think and pray on, and this year is no different.
At the end of the play a veiled curtain comes down to show flashback scenes between Jesus, the woman caught in adultery, and the thief on the cross who believed. In front of the curtain are these folks in heaven wearing white robes. The thief lived a no good life and only in his last breaths did he believe.
Jesus was waiting with open arms.
The woman caught in adultery perhaps had years of service to the Lord but still, especially back then, you were to die for such a choice. Yet there she was in heaven, greeting Jesus.
He was waiting with open arms.
The song that plays during this exchange asks how did you get here and their answer is "By the Way of the Cross." There truly was no other way for them, or for me.
Somehow my thoughts took me to a welcome mat. In a worldly sense, had we known these folks, my guess is few of us would extend the welcome mat to them, then or now. A thief? What if he takes our things? What if he smells? He doesn't talk like our friends, he'll embarrass us.
An adulteress? What if she makes a pass at my spouse or son? What if she dresses in my clothes and uses my jewelry? What if she starts telling people her past?
Although the path to eternal life is a narrow gate, once you make that decision for Christ, His arms are wide open and the welcome mat is put out with no reservations.
Can I say the same? Can you?
A month or so ago I was speaking with someone whose church family is going through a pastoral transition. This person asked for advice and I was very candid about what I would look for. My list was so specific that they took it to the meeting and utilized it. One board member objected to one thing I brought up.
Is your church, would this pastor be ready and willing for the prostitute, the heroin addict, the pornographer to enter? I ask because with all my heart, I think Jesus is preparing the church for an outpouring of folks who have lived differently than most of us, and they are hungry for His love.
Would you extend the welcome mat?
This board member apparently shared that as a church, they needed to think about their reputation and if that a potential pastor wants to embrace "those people" well then they would have to reject that candidate.
My take is, you can dress sin up in a three piece suit, but it's still sin.
I want to be the Christian that doesn't just put the welcome mat out, but extends my hand. That I welcome the prosititute, the special needs child the adults don't know how to tolerate, the single parent, the gambler, the ex con, the porn addict, the porn star, the abortionist, the white collar executive who cheats on his taxes, the wife who cheats on her husband, and the board member too scared of change and personifies what I see as a religious spirit.
Am I there? I'd like to think so. I was feeling pretty good when I was at McDonalds and sat next to two teens dressed in Goth who mocked us when we prayed over our meal. I didn't sneer or hold my breath when a man came in who had old clothes and poor hygiene walked by and it was impossible to not notice.
Then today my neighbor shared that the house next door, now vacant, appears to have lost a potential tenant that sounded promising. The last family that came in was very loud, disruptive, and in situations that put the neighbors in possible danger. With the new tenant not moving in, the owner apparently was asking my neighbor how we would all feel about bringing in low income rent to own families.
I panicked.
In a flash, I saw me taking my welcome mat and shoving it inside my house where everything feels comfortable and safe. My vision of a low income rent to own situation is stereotypical and I confess I picture chaos, unruly kids, many pets, and people who have no respect for others or things. I base this on the last family that came in and really it isn't fair.
We're going to be in for a lot of surprises, here on Earth and even in heaven. From everything I've read, serial killer Ted Bundy made an authentic transformation to follower of Christ before his execution. When he arrived in heaven, the welcome mat was out. This man has as much of a place at the banquet table with Jesus as Mother Teresa. Can you wrap your mind around that? Without His grace, it's impossible.
So I write this knowing my welcome mat needs work. When I get the heaven and someone says, "Friend, how did you get here?" Well maybe my past isn't as a stripper, a killer or a thief. But my ticket to eternal life was stamped just the same as anyone with that experience.
I came by the way of the Cross.
Where the welcome mat is out.

Julie Arduini is a surrendered writer with her own blog, http://thesurrenderedscribe.blogspot.com/. A graduate of the Christian Writers Guild, she blogs for the Christian Writers Forum Sundays as the mommy blogger and is the Forum's book club facilitator. She is active with FaithWriters and has several writings ready to publish in different books and anthologies in 2008-09. Julie was chosen as the March 2008 FaithReaders.com author of the month. To get to know her better, read her interview by Linda Schab at: http://www.faithreaders.com/featured-author-details.php?id=33%20
To contact Julie, please contact her at the e mail address provided in the profile.

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