As a church, we strive to be an authentic community, a community where we truly engage and support one another. Yet it’s easy to lose sight of what really matters. Too often, churches spend their time keeping up appearances. We end up focusing on what the world tells us is important, things like status, wealth, and influence. We build relationships with others in our community who are similar to us, or those whom we see as successful. This can lead to us widening social chasms, rather than working to bridge them.
This is not a new tendency; it was the case in the early church too. In James 2:1-4, the author writes, “My sisters and brothers, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, ‘Have a seat here, please,’ while to the one who is poor you say, ‘Stand there,’ or, ‘Sit at my feet,’ have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?”
God calls us into authentic community not to look good, but to do good. We are called to welcome all who come into our midst and to value each person as a unique and beloved child of God. In spite of our natural tendency to build selective, beneficial (or maybe convenient?) friendships with those who are easy to love, God calls us out of our comfort zones to build authentic relationships, even with those of very different backgrounds, journeys, or opinions. May we pray for the humility to open ourselves to all people!