It really is a jungle out there. And because of that, I think that people have come to expect the church to be a refuge, which it should be. The church SHOULD be a refuge for weak and weary sinners in need of grace. The church SHOULD be a refuge for the poor and the oppressed, the widow and the orphan. The church SHOULD be a refuge for the brokenhearted, the downtrodden, the Misfit Toys of this world.
But it seems like lately I am hearing more and more people express the desire that the church remain or become a refuge from anybody who thinks differently. I'm not saying anybody who BELIEVES differently, as in the basics of the gospel and orthodox Christianity and all that. I mean some seem to want the church to be a refuge from those whose faith in God plays out differently in their life. And I am just not so sure that is the role of the church.
Take politics, for example. Should the church be a refuge from those who have different political views? Should the church be the place you can run to and everybody thinks like you and debates like you and votes like you?
Should the church be a refuge from those who have a different take on social responsibility or environmental action?
Should the church be a refuge from those who have an "inferior" worship style or those who prefer a different translation of the Bible?
Should the church be a refuge from those who raise their children differently? Discipline their children differently? Educate their children differently? Even FEED their children differently?
I think we have gotten it all mixed up. Last I checked there were 10 Commandments and Jesus summed them up like this:
"Love The Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: "Love your neighbor as yourself." — Matthew 22:37-39
It is only natural that God, in all of his creativity, placed a variety of people in his church. People who are wired differently and think differently and come from different backgrounds and have different life experiences and these very well may result is a huge variation on just how people choose to put loving God and loving their neighbor into practice.
I think that the problem here is that we are mixing up preferences with principles and elevating our preferences, our personal practical applications, into some form of law in and of itself. And we not only use that law to define our faith, but we use that law to measure the faith of the person sitting next to us. And we push . . . push . . . PUSH that law onto our brothers and sisters in Christ.
So, is there anything wrong with wanting to be with like-minded folks? Not at all. Is there anything wrong with expecting everybody in your church to think and talk and look and live and love exactly like you do? Yes, I think there might be. Aside from being unrealistic, a place like that would be downright creepy in a robotic, Clone-A-Matic, Stepford Christians sort of way.
I find it fascinating that Revelation 7:9 speaks of "every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb." We are going to be spending eternity with a whole host of people who may be different from us in almost every way but one: We are washed in the blood of the Lamb.
Oh, I know that it is inevitable, while here on earth, that we are going to join together based on some common ideals and convictions and preferences, but, ultimately, those should not be the things that bind us together, because those are not the things that bind us to Christ. And he is our refuge.