By Ginger Hughes
To those overlooked by the church,
I see you. You look at this towering, stately building, standing proudly on the corner and feel nothing but cold, intimidation settle around your shoulders. I understand that sentiment.
I remember you. You came here some as a child, but then stopped attending after your parents divorced and life became fragmented. Time trickled on, and the space between yourself and the church grew wider until the chasm seemed too far to cross. I get that.
I understand you. As a young woman expecting a baby, but not expecting a ring, you felt stares and heard whispers the last time you entered these heavy, ornate doors, and swore you’d never come back. I don’t blame you.
I hear you. Though others seemingly did not when once out of desperation, you braved this sacred place once more, only to have no one speak. How silent the church much have felt to you that day. Silence can indeed be deafening.
I know you. You grew up in this place, got married here, and reared your children within these walls; yet the quarreling began, and words were slung like daggers. The lines of dissension were drawn straight down the aisle dividing the altar of the Almighty Himself, and so you left. The hurt flows through your veins like ice, and the warmth you once felt for the church is no more.
I feel you. The church let you down. At one time, you thought maybe, just maybe, hope could be found there, but it wasn’t. You thought peace would flow over you there, but it didn’t. You hoped mercy and grace would be extended there, but they weren’t. You thought friendship would warm you there, but it didn’t. You expected that the meaning of life would be discovered there, but it wasn’t. You desperately prayed that love would be felt there, but it was not.
To you, reading this now, please hear me: I am sorry.
You were hungry for grace, and I did not share what had so extravagantly been shared with me.
You were thirsty for forgiveness, and I did not point to the well of Christ’s mercy that never runs dry.
You were a stranger, and I did not welcome you into the family of God.
Your soul was naked, vulnerable, and exposed, and I did not offer you the clothing of kindness and hospitality.
You were heart sick, lonely, and broken, and I did not extend my hand of friendship.
You were imprisoned by walls of pride, brokenness, hurt, humiliation, disillusionment, abandonment, and sin, and I did not point you to the One who can tear down these walls with His Almighty power and love.
To you, reading this now: Please forgive me.
Please forgive me, and the ones who sit beside me on Sunday, for our lack of love shown towards you is a sin against God. Here is the truth of God’s church: if the church is not for the hurting, then the church is not for Christ. If the church is not for the lonely, then the church is not for Christ. If the church is not for the sinner, then the church is not for Christ.
So to you, who are disillusioned by the church, please give the church another chance…
and another, and another, until you find a church that shares freely the grace, hope, and love that Jesus so extravagantly gives.
And please remember this: on Sunday there will be a place on the pew right beside me. It’s empty and waiting on you. I humbly ask that you join me there. And when you do, we will experience the love of God together.
Matthew 25:34-40 NIV Paraphrased: “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; I needed clothes, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you looked after Me; I was in prison, and you came to visit Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or needing clothes, or sick, or in prison?’ And the King will reply, ‘Truly, I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me’.”
-Ginger Hughes is the wife of a pastor, a mother of two and an accountant. She is a Georgia native currently living in the foothills of North Carolina. Her passion for writing is fueled by the desire to offer encouragement, grace and a deeper understanding that we are all God’s children. Her blogging for Nurturing Faith is sponsored by a gift from First Baptist Church of Gainesville, Ga. Additional writings may be found at nomamasperfect.com.