Are there some kinds of people that you would prefer not to associate with? Are there some sorts of Christians you would rather not have anything to do with? What criteria do you use in evaluating a follower of Jesus when you first meet them? Clothes? Spiritual language? Intelligence? Looks? Doctrinal views? Background? Have you ever been excluded from a group of believers? How did it make you feel?
I have noticed that the word “entitlement” has grown in significance across our culture in recent years. People believe they are entitled to a wide variety of “rights”, ranging from social, political, economic, health, education, and sexual. Many of us feel entitled to clear, concise answers to the many enigmas developed over the past six seasons of LOST.
I had seat 25-D on a plane. When I got to the row, someone was sitting in my seat. I expected (and received) assistance from a flight attendant and the matter was resolved quickly. Yet a friend of mine attended a U2 concert with tickets entitling him and his guest to enter the venue and sit in seats 44 and 45 of row J. They found people sitting in their seats and a fight almost broke out when the usher came to ask them to move on.
The dictionary defines “entitlement” as “being given a title or right.” American citizens have certain “unalienable rights”, guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Opportunity for free speech, to bear arms, to assemble peacefully, and worship are some of the freedoms our government is responsible to provide every citizen equally.
Yet enemies to these rights…such as greed, envy, indifference, and prejudice grow and flourish in modern culture. Many are prevented from making social or financial gains.
Whether we want to admit it or not, it can be just as bad in the church – maybe worse at times. Scripture teaches that all men and women created in God’s image. Since followers of Jesus are equal in God’s sight because they are all one in Christ Jesus, they are all entitled to be accepted by God’s people. They are free to participate in Christian community, worship, communion, and service. But that doesn’t always happen.
In some instances, a person in a wheelchair is made to feel out of place. Someone whose skin is a different color is ignored. A person wrestling with and trying to overcome a particular kind of sin is shunned. Someone from the wrong sort of background is pushed to the fringe of the group. Litmus tests concerning what people believe often are erected to keep some people out. If you struggle with belief and doubt, people whisper about you.
Read Galatians 3:26-4:7. Christian community on campus and/or in the church should be the ultimate melting pots. The doors (and our arms and hearts) should be open to all who are looking for faith, hope, and love. If no place else feels like home, the community of the adopted, forgiven, and redeemed should be – to everyone – without exception.
Live communally. Ask God to help you and your community ensure your faces, words, and body language reflect the openness that He wants in your hearts to all brothers and sisters in Christ. Work to make sure that there are no issues of entitlement. Remember that in Christ’s Kingdom, there are no second class citizens.
Love is a verb,