Have you heard about an organization of churches called COR? The acronym stands for Churches of Refuge and there are nine characteristics which a congregation must meet in order to belong. One of them I found of special interest was that the church “must commit to accepting people just as Jesus did.”
Well, that’s easy, I thought. Wouldn’t every church meet that criterion? Then I remembered Eloise (a name I just made up, though the story is true). One week we had a guest come to our little church to provide music during the worship service. He was maybe in his mid-twenties, a recent convert to faith in Jesus though not a member of our faith group. I remember he gave a brief testimony of his journey, then sat down at the piano to accompany himself as he sang.
It was a good song. New to many in the congregation I reflected, but not in any way offensive. The music was appropriate and the lyrics were right on message. Except Eloise didn’t like it. About half way through the second stanza she got up from her seat and walked to the back of the church. She stopped, turned to face the singer, put her palms over her ears with her elbows pointing straight out and kept that pose until he finished. Then she sat down in a chair against the back wall. Although we invited Lee (his real name) to visit many times after that, he never did.
Last week Ruthie and I were worshiping in a large church on one of our university campuses in North America. The speaker was skillfully leading us through an electrifying story in the gospel of John, chapter 8. He described how, just as Jesus was about to begin teaching a Bible class, a group of driven, conservative church members brought a young woman whom they had actually caught in an immoral situation and stood her up in front of the group. It doesn’t get much more awkward than that.
Except that Jesus got right to the COR of the matter. The one fact these self-righteous ultra- conservative critics hadn’t learned was that the safest place in the universe for a broken sinner is when they come into the presence of Jesus. As shameful as her conduct had obviously been, virtually His last words to her were, “Neither do I condemn you!” That’s a line we ought to memorize – and use often.
By Don Jacobsen