Did you hear about the old cowboy who went on vacation in the big city? While there he visited a church. All he had were his old jeans, a western shirt, his cowboy boots and his cowboy hat and when he walked in everyone stared. Finally the deacons told the pastor he had to say something to the cowboy. So the preacher walked up to him and said, “If you haven’t noticed, we all come to worship God in our Sunday best. If you want to come back and worship with us again, you should ask God how He thinks you should dress.”
Well the cowboy’s stay lasted through the following weekend so he once again put on his jeans, shirt, boots and hat and headed off to the church. When he arrived, everyone was astonished and this time stared at the pastor. So the pastor went up to the cowboy and asked, “Didn’t I tell you to ask God what to wear if you every came back to worship with us?”
“Yes sir, and I did.”
“Well, what did He say?”
“He said, ‘I don’t know what you should wear. I have never been to that church!'”
Ouch! Do you know what makes that joke funny and sad at the same time?
Too many churches have become Exclusive Country Clubs rather than Inclusive Biblical Communities.
Unfortunately the church has struggled with this problem for over 2,000 years. It is easy for religion to sneak in and replace the priority of relationships. At Discover Point, the church we are planting, we strive to be a community where religion takes a backseat and relationships are the priority.
The two greatest commandments are “Love God” and “Love your neighbor.” Love is our priority (see my blog: Learning to Love). When you don’t know what to do or where to start, begin with love.
In James 2:1-13, James gives us Four Signs of an Exclusive Community:
- Favoritism – treating people differently
- Bickering – petty arguments and disunity
- Pride – becoming judges with evil thoughts
- Disrespect for God – attitudes that dishonor God name
In verse 13, James alludes to a life principle: You Reap What You Sow. If you sow mercy, you will reap mercy. If you sow judgement, you will reap judgement.
James concludes the section with a great phrase: “Mercy triumphs over judgement.”
Love cares for the one in need regardless.
Loving someone in need regardless does not require you to compromise the truth. Look at verse 8, “If you really keep the royal law found in scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right.”
Showing mercy, loving your neighbor regardless is living the truth.
Jesus said a similar thing when He said, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15). These are strong words.
James goes on to say in verse 12, “Speak and act like those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom.” What is the law that gives freedom? It is not the Mosaic Law. It is the law of love.
Let me share Four Signs of an Inclusive Community:
- Mercy – an inclusive community is a hospital for sinners not a fortress for the saints. We show mercy to everyone not just our own. God has a passion for people and so must we.
- Forgiveness – an inclusive community is forgiving. We identify with those who have messed up. We know what it is to need forgiveness. We know how freeing it is to give and receive forgiveness.
- Authentic – an inclusive community has no room for fakes. We are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom. We will be judged, we are not the judge. Authenticity is marked by humility.
- Fear of God – an inclusive community respects God. He is the holy, sovereign, and just God. He has the authority to forgive or condemn. Yet, He is a gentleman and invites rather than commands us to worship Him.
An Inclusive Community is attractive because it is made of people who can be trusted. Trusted to show you mercy. Trusted to forgive you. Trusted to be authentic. Trusted to honor God’s truth. Trusted to love you!