Bear with me for one moment. Are the airlines alienating customers and treating us as commodities not people? I believe this is the case, and it begins from the moment you step into the airport. Check in is now at a screen, as impersonal as possible. TSA is a hassle and a pain with little personal touch, unless you have something that catches their attention. Then you board the plane, but those who are in the “club” get special treatment, they board first. They essentially show their special privilege “card” and they are on board. If you are lucky enough to be in this club you get treated differently, given drinks and food and have very comfortable seats. The rest of us are crammed into narrow rows of seats with little legroom. You might get a small snack bag and a small cup of soda, not the whole can. In addition, on my last flight they were not letting anyone carry on their bags. You had to leave your baggage at the plane door and picked it up at the end of the flight. Not a great experience! In fact, I do not look forward to my future trips.
As I sat there on the plane I could not help but think, are we in the Church creating the same type of experience? Are we treating God’s children as commodities and alienating them in the process? When people show up at our church doors do we treat them in an impersonal manner with no personal touch unless there is something that catches our attention, something they can do for us? Do we expect them to be in the “club” before they can join in? Do we give those with an LC-MS card different treatment than those who are just on board or visiting? Do we save our best for those in the club as opposed to those who are just getting on board? Do we expect people to leave their baggage at the door so they do not create congestion or burdens only to be picked up as they leave? Are we in part creating an environment where the anger and hatred towards the church is being fed? Is this creating a feeling that people do not want to ‘fly” with us?
This idea was reinforced when I visited a golf club recently, I felt like a visitor even though the members were wonderful and hospitable. You could see that members felt like members and visitors felt like visitors, and knowing that you could “visit” only by invitation made the difference clear. I believe many people experience the church this way. Members know they belong, and visitors know they don’t. Mainly because of our insider language and private rituals and privileges we give to those we call “our own”. After all membership comes with privilege we are told in our world. Membership is exclusive not inclusive. Is it not the same in the church?
I say absolutely not! Christianity is not an exclusive organization or “club” by which we can shut people out or treat those who are not “our own” differently. GOD's gift of salvation is for everyone who believes in Christ and follows Him. I say shame on those Christians who lay guilt trips or shun those who don't measure up to man-made non-Biblical standards of holiness or churchly behavior. Let us remember what Jesus teaches us in the book of Romans chapter 15. Accept others (especially those who are different than you) for the glory of God because Christ accepted you and all peoples for the glory of God.
I pray that this would be our guiding value as we engage and inspire people to live a sacramental life in Christ. Reminded that we are his disciples in this world living out our faith where we live, work, worship and play. As it states in Galatians 2:20:
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
May this be our focus as we accept and welcome others to live life with us with an inclusive, servant mentality.