The Golden Rule
In a past life I managed the customer service end of a fairly large grocery store, the cashiers and carry-out clerks were my responsibility. For most shoppers, my people were the only ones who would have an opportunity to make and impression on them, whether good or bad. Since our prices weren’t the lowest, our service had to be the best. It was simple concept to teach, if you want a paycheck, take care of our customers. People who understand this principle can literally sell ice cubes to Eskimos – it’s the “Golden Rule” of business – treat people right and they will come back. I am constantly amazed when businesses and people can’t grasp this, it’s like they want to fail. Without naming names (Wal-Mart), we can all think of businesses that we’ve been to that didn’t seem to really want our business, and couldn’t care less about our needs. Why in the world would we ever want to go back there again?
Doesn’t it make sense that this same principle would hold true for churches too? Treat people right and they’ll want to come back? I think that church folk like us sometimes forget about the “Golden Rule” Jesus gave us [Matthew 7]12“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.” Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the notion that this is God’s House and everything we do has got to be just right, that we forget we’re all flawed and sinful and far from perfect. Some people feel like they have the right (or even the responsibility) to point out each and every mistake or shortcoming they see in others. They may even do this with the purest of intentions, but often it comes across as mean, petty or judgmental. A church that wants to grow has got to do better, we are not called to a higher standard of personal perfection, but a higher standard of treating others with empathy, forgiveness, and understanding – because that is the way we want to be treated.
It’s my prayer that there will be visitors coming to First Lutheran to check us out, to see if we’re a good fit for them and their family. Since we can’t and won’t make our church more attractive by changing our theology to welcome any sin – we must make our church more attractive by changing our thinking to welcome every sinner - Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner. This is easier to say, than it is to do. It is extremely difficult at times to separate the sinner from the sin; with some people, all you can see is their sin because it’s ruling their lives. But we have got to force ourselves to see others as God sees all of His children (that includes me and you) – as sinners saved by His grace through Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross.
Maybe someone struggles with a particular sin that you absolutely despise, a sin you just can’t tolerate, yet this person desires to join our fellowship and work to live a more godly life (like all of us do). Would you be able to love that person? Would you be willing to try? What if their sins don’t bother you as much as their personality does? What if they’re obnoxious, opinionated, rude, stinky, or just too chatty? Would you be able to love that person? Would you be willing to try? Jesus says if you want to be a part of His church - you must. We must be people that love the unlovely – after all God loves us, and we’re not so great.
When people come to check us out, we want them to see us carrying one another’s burdens and sorrows, sharing each other’s joys and triumphs. Not complaining and criticizing or grumbling and griping, but loving one another and caring for each other. That’s just what we’re commanded to do [1 John 4] 21 And [Jesus] has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their fellow believers.
We may not have the newest building or the fanciest bulletins or the best preacher, but we do have an awesome church family to uplift and encourage and love and cherish – so let’s be the very best at doing unto others that which we want done to ourselves – and then people will want come back to First Lutheran Church and be a part of our truly blessed family.
Grace & Peace to you all!
Pastor John