I’M HOPING THAT lots of first-time and once-in-a-blue-moon churchgoers who turn out for services this Easter Sunday are—despite regular attendees’ best efforts to make them feel welcome—left feeling slightly uncomfortable. In the best possible way, of course.
While I understand the impulse that drives some churches to want to project an image to outsiders of “normality,” I can’t help feeling that creates an awkward tension. Because, when it all comes down to it, Christians are not like everyone else with a light frosting of spirituality thrown in.
We can talk about sharing Judeo-Christian values with others, and it’s good to acknowledge our many areas of commonality with those of different and no faith. Still, they are not what we gather around each week.
We come together in the name of the One we say created everything, holds it all together, took human form and through His death and resurrection paved the way for the restoration of our broken selves and broken world.
We are either onto something cosmically crucial, or we are nuts. And if ever there is a time to emphasize that, surely it’s on Easter.
C.S. Lewis well countered the idea that you can just respect Jesus as a good moral teacher—a sort of taller early Ghandi with more facial hair and no glasses—with his “lunatic, liar, or Lord” categorization. And the apostle Paul bluntly observed that if Jesus did not rise from the dead, then “we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:19).
So let’s not lose our focus. While I trust that church visitors experience good hospitality this weekend, may it not be at the expense of the reason for gathering—to celebrate the miracle of the resurrection.
We can be mindful that newcomers may not be familiar with some of our ways. We can indeed seek to alleviate those potential hiccups, but that shouldn’t mean muting our reason for being there. Fact is, extravagant devotion to Jesus makes some people feel uncomfortable.
Remember how even some of the disciples criticized the woman who broke a flask of expensive nard and poured it over Jesus when He dined at the house of Simon the leper, during Holy Week? They’d have preferred she tone things down a bit: “Let’s not get too extreme about this Jesus thing.”
On the other hand, worship can be a doorway to faith. A loved one of mine with minimal church background came to Christ after visiting an event in which several hundred people were singing enthusiastically of their faith. She just knew in that moment that God was real.
This shouldn’t be entirely surprising. After all, David wrote of how “God is enthroned on the praises of Israel” (Ps. 22:3). And Jesus said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32). He said this of His crucifixion, certainly, but it also echoes into our celebration of His death and resurrection.
I hope churches are full of new faces this Easter Sunday, experiencing both a declaration of difference and an invitation to inclusion.
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