Remembering What It Was Like
Imagine you were raised in another religion (if you even need to). It’s all you’ve ever known; the only God you’ve ever known; the only way of worshiping you’ve ever known. Your family and friendships and business are all woven into the latticework of this religion. But then you begin to have questions. You doubt. You look around.
And then, after months, you finally do it. You search Google for “evangelical church”; you find one in Holladay; there’s a school there, too - they can’t be too crazy. You decide, “Today’s the day. We’re going to do it.” You dress your best - this is big, big, big step. You know you’ll be an outsider there, after being an insider all your life. “Insecure” doesn’t do your feelings justice - you are stepping out on thin ice, on a lake you’ve never known, and you have no idea how deep the water is. But something is driving you to this moment. It will be worth it. They’re Christians there, right? They know what this is like . . . Right?
You walk up the steps, and are kindly greeted by a couple guys with name tags - that’s nice. But you’re thinking, “That doesn’t count - those guys are paid to do that, or something.”
So you keep walking. Whoa - big, long hallway. Imposing. OK, that’s the second gigantic cross. They’re really into big crosses here. Are they trying to make a point?
But you keep walking.
“Looks like we go through those double doors.”
You’re greeted by another name-tagged, friendly person. Great! But again - doesn’t count. She’s official.
You keep walking.
Funny - you chuckle to yourself - this all reminds you of that long hallway at the spook-house at the amusement park. Where’s the trap door?
Then a pleasant enough fellow greets you - no name tag this time. “Hey there! You guys Mormon?”
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. . .
. . .
. . .
There it is. Cue the screech of the needle across the record.
You didn’t hear “You guys Mormon?” You heard, “Hey, you’re an outsider! You stick out! Are you sure you belong here? Are you human? You don’t look human. Gonna keep you at a distance! Just wanted to make sure the last thing you felt was comfortable, outsider!”
You smilingly, respectfully go through the motions of the service - you were raised well that way - but everything is colored differently now. You count the minutes until you can get out of this place, where you clearly . . . don’t . . . belong.
It is so easy for us to forget what it was like to be an outsider, before Christ. But we must not forget. For two reasons:
It’s our story. We were once “strangers and aliens” to the “household of God”. But then God came close and preached the gospel to us and made us fellow citizens with all the saints (Eph. 2:17-22). We only deserved to remain as “outsiders”. Instead God gave us amazing, welcoming, grace. God did not treat us like stacks of theological propositions, but as humans, coming as a man, like us, to bring us into the very family of God, as his sons and daughters.
How you and I greet Sunday guests is deeply theological. It reflects upon whether we remember our own story or not.
It’s their story. If this person, whom we greet in the hallway, is being saved, it will be because God, in eternity past, loved them. Why? Out of sheer, magnificent grace. Seeing all their sin, all their waywardness and unbelief, He loved them. He saw past the suit, past the human veneer, and loved them. And now, He is working, perhaps in this moment, to show them Himself in His Son. Perhaps through you, in this “little” moment.
Just a greeting, just a handshake. And a holy moment; holy ground. You are meeting another made in God's image. And you might have just met a brother or sister that you will spend eternity with. In heaven you might look back and wish you had removed your shoes.
Church, let’s not forget what it was like, before Christ. It’s part of a great story. And the Author is adding new characters, all the time. Perhaps this Sunday.