Hospitals or Hospices?

It has been a few weeks since I have posted anything. There are a few reasons, but one of which has to do with releasing a new book through Amazon, entitled, Misfits of Grace: Black Sheep in God’s Family. I believe it’s an important message for the church today. The chief attribute Christians ought to be known for is love for one another. This doesn’t mean the condoning of sin, of course, but it does mean to treat persons with respect and worth. Sadly, too many persons, genuine believers, are attending churches trying to live by faith that they have intrinsic value as a brother or sister in the family of God, but they are ignored and rejected by the very persons who claim to be siblings in Christ. This is tragic. Furthermore, they are told they are important to the body, that God has given them spiritual gifts, but they are treated as mere benchwarmers and water boys on some high school sports team.

Some of God’s children are misfits, so to speak, and are treated as such by people. But be clear on this, these individuals are so dearly loved by God. They are not redeemed by accident, and their worth is not less than those who are “insiders” of religious circles.

Today, I’m sharing with you the first chapter of Misfits of Grace. I hope you will find it both challenging and encouraging.

Chapter One: Hospitals or Hospices?

Let’s begin with a multiple-choice question, shall we? Jesus says that people will know persons are His disciples by: a) How many verses they have memorized. b) Their faithfulness in church attendance. c) Having the complete set of John MacArthur’s Bible Commentaries. d) Branding sinners with red hot verbal irons. e) Being popular in churches. f) Appearing spiritual. g) Worshiping at a Chris Tomlin concert. h) Being a Sunday school teacher. i) All the above. j) None of the above. I trust that this was an easy question. In fact, I’m confident that many who are reading this can state what Jesus actually says: 

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. ~ John 13:35 

We, as Christians, can say these words with convincing conviction. However, let me ask you: Do others know you and I are Christ’s disciples by our love? Then again, what is love? The Bible defines it for us: 

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. ~ 1 Corinthians. 13:4-6 

Do these describe most of us in our interactions with one another? Really? Are most of us truly known for being patient, kind, humble, and selfless? Oh sure, those within our circles and cliques might think well enough of us, but what about the outsiders—those deemed as different, unattractive, not funny, too serious, socially awkward, too bubbly, etc.?  This brings us to what James writes to believers, concerning partiality: 

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory… If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin. ~ James 2:1, 8-9 

Again, how are many persons in churches doing in not showing partiality? I’ve been a Christian long enough and have been to enough churches and events to know the more attractive, nicely dressed, and influential persons are often treated better than those who lack these qualities (we’ll look at this issue later).

 I remember years ago being excited about enrolling at a Bible College/seminary. I had envisioned it as being a slice of heaven on earth. However, the truth of the matter is it was one of the most excruciatingly lonely places I have ever been. Although I did have some friends there, on numerous occasions I remember greeting persons passing on the sidewalk only to have them walk pass me without a smile, hello, or eye contact. I remember thinking, “Wow! If you will not greet a brother in Christ who is civil with you, you will not minister to those of the likes of me before coming to know Christ.”

On another occasion I had the initial privilege of meeting a wellknown Southern Baptist preacher. At the time I had a cassette tape with a sermon he had preached. This message had a profound impact on me. While trying to thank him, he shook my hand without making eye contact and basically blew me off.

I’ve experienced numerous such encounters in churches and religious settings. Furthermore, I have met other misfits who have had their own share of similar experiences. Churches ought to be a place where followers of Christ are both welcomed and feel welcomed. Sadly, too often, the church is often described as the only army that shoots its own wounded. Churches are also said to be hospitals where the spiritual sick can find healing. Ironically, for many, churches are more like hospices where individuals feel left to die alone with their broken hearts and wounded spirits. In his book, Encourage Me, Charles Swindoll tells the story of meeting up with a Marine he had once served with. The man had since then become a Christian. When asked how he was doing, he acknowledged to Charles that he missed the days when he could simply meet with his buddies at a tavern and let his hair down. Charles admits that many Christian men feel this way.

 So, Jesus says others will know we are His disciples by our love for one another. Can this be said of you and me? What would those outside our circles say of us? Do you think their opinions don’t matter? According to Jesus, others’ perception of our love (or lack thereof) reveals a lot about our discipleship (or lack thereof) beneath Him and His teachings. The implication is clear: If we are not known for our genuine love for one another, then neither are we truly known as Jesus’ disciples and followers.