How comforting to know God won’t leave us or abandon us. He accepts us because of Jesus. But church bodies aren’t always so faithful to embrace, even with Jesus. I believe the uncertainty of human acceptance leads a lot of us to do a lot of things to secure our place in human grace. Without meaning to, we’ve learned to bully believers into compliance for the sake of comfort in our fellowship.
We start studying, dressing, eating, voting, posting, serving, talking, and believing appropriately out of our longing to be loved by fellow women of faith. We may be saved by the blood of Jesus, but if we aren’t careful, we’ll find ourselves bearing the fruit of peer pressure.
Being in Familiar can lull us into feeling accepted and received, but we live with low levels of fear at the thought of finding ourselves in Alone.
In a recent conversation, an unchurched woman told me how she grew up in a church-going family, but she hasn’t wanted to be part of a church as a grown up. The way she sees it, being part of a church means being busy in committees, events, and service. I know church life is bigger than that, but she has a point. She doesn’t see Jesus in Church. She just can’t accept everything it takes to be accepted in the Church.
In a lot of churches, we have to accept a lot to be accepted. But Jesus … He takes us when we still eat and dress and talk and think like the world. He accepts us when we know we’re only saved by grace and NOT by anything we do to comply with the crowd (Ephesians 2:8-9). There’s nothing we can do to be saved into God’s family, but once we’re in, the Family wants us to do a lot to fit in.
God designed the Church as a place His children are loved and love back, where He is worshiped, served and shown. But in most Western places, culture has seeped in, so women walk a fine line of meeting requirements to being loved and loving back. We have added our own unspoken rules to precepts God gave us. Jesus requires we become like Him to be included, but we often require that we be like each other.
It’s a new style of “legalism.” A more palatable style of legalism. Different people make us feel like we don’t know everything. And different people take … grace. We’re afraid to be ourselves and be left out in Alone.
I haven’t been in Familiar for a long time. Now I have a new schedule, new limitations, and new opportunities. “New” requires I say no to things I’ve loved. Is there a place for women who don’t do what the other women do? Will I be forgotten? Ignored? Overlooked? Misunderstood? Judged? Jesus takes me, but will the other Christian women? I’ll find out.
Western church embraces women who fit our Christian culture: the right Bible studies, ministries, eating, worshiping, dressing, recreation. A lot of us spend a lot of time and energy trying to make sure we do what insures inclusion and acceptance. If we’re not careful, Church can look more like a gathering of bullies than believers.
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10)
Brave. Church is a place to be brave. God doesn’t want us to make decisions and chart courses to please people. Even important people. He gives permission to please Him only. It’s okay to say no. It’s okay to be still. It’s okay to go where God leads when it’s hard to see.
For women who believe, may our bravery and our grace begin at Church.
What do you think makes women in a local church be truly accepting of each other? What would you say are the essentials of having a genuinely welcoming church?