I’m in my late 50s now. Well…63.
It’s a time to reassess things. Try out new possibilities. I was thinking about applying for Love Island. Make some new friends, explore new ideas and meet some new challenges.
But if I was on Love Island, how would I choose my new friends?
Maybe I should throw in my lot with Liam. He’s got enormous chest muscles, a bronze tan, a tattoo, and he’s looking for someone with looks and personality because he’s been single for months.
Or maybe I should choose Jake. He’s got enormous chest muscles, a bronze tan, a tattoo, and he’s looking for someone with looks and personality because he’s been single for months.
Or there’s always Danny. He’s got enormous chest muscles, a bronze tan, a tattoo, and he’s looking for someone with looks and personality because he’s been single for months.
If we want to, at our church, we have an opportunity to be absolutely the opposite of Love Island.
We can be a place where an incredibly diverse group of people find a home and find a purpose in following and serving Jesus.
A place where young people and old people are side by side.
A place where people with radically different worldviews can talk and eat and make plans together because their love for Jesus outclasses everything else.
A place where there are foodbank users and foodbank donors worshipping together because they’re both yearning for a world in which such a thing doesn’t need to exist anymore.
Jesus’ diverse friends
Let’s remember that Jesus gathered around him people who were incredibly diverse.
He chose Matthew. A traitorous tax collector who worked for the hated Roman Empire taking money from his fellow Jews.
He also chose Simon, a nationalist Zealot. Imagine Nigel Farage with swords. He had a reputation for violent rebellion against Rome. And for despising tax collectors.
What do you imagine the conversations between Simon and Matthew were like? When Jesus told his followers that they were to love each other, he wasn’t being nice. He was saying that things must change.
Family of faith
Jesus also gathered around him respectable fishermen, unapproachable outcasts and people with sinful reputations. Wealthy women supported him and he had friends who were physically and mentally ill. He also chose a man who was going to betray him.
Jesus’ friends were extraordinarily diverse. And he called them his mother, his sister, his brother. His family of faith.
If you want to be like Jesus, that’s the way you’ve got to start thinking.
God’s perfect love
The compassion of God knows no bounds. He loves every human being on this planet with exactly the same perfect love. That is his nature.
He loves people who are in Afghanistan desperately afraid of the men with the conservative religious view and the guns. He also loves the men with the conservative religious view and the guns.
He loves the people who are working long and gruelling hours in hospitals to keep us healthy. He also loves the people who are refusing to be vaccinated.
Repentance and change
He doesn’t take sides in family battles. He loves those on both sides. He doesn’t love people from one religion more than another. His love is perfect for all.
He longs that they will encounter him in the person of Jesus. He longs that this love will be so compelling that people will repent, will change their ways, will find forgiveness, and will follow him.
No one, no one, is beyond Jesus’ call.
If that’s so, we need to do a bit of rethinking: who are we going to make welcome among us?
Is our church going to be a good home to those who are respectable? Of course it is!
But what about people with complicated sexual histories? What about people who are transitioning to a different gender? What about people with mental or physical illnesses? What about those who don’t share our beliefs and make no secret of it?
They ALL need to find here a welcome. A welcome which reflects Jesus and helps them see what God is like.
There is incomparable good news: God’s compassion knows no limits.
He loves hypocrites like the teachers of the Law. He loves let-downs like the one who betrayed him. He has an unlimited love for the lost.
Imagine someone loved you that much.
You don’t have to imagine it.
It’s the fact of the matter.