by Pastor Greg Fowler
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And foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord to minister to him … these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer (Isaiah 56:6a,7a).
Some time back, I was ministering to a young man who loved the Lord but had a terrible drug dependence. With help from others in the congregation, we helped him get work, reunite with family and gave him spiritual support. The problem was he was often high on drugs when with us. I was worried about what all our ‘good families’ would think of a drug addict in church, so I told him he wasn’t allowed to come to worship when he was high. The next Sunday, the young man saw me at the church door, desperate to worship. As he was high, I told him no – after all, he could be a danger, and our strategic plan was to have families in our church, not druggies. All he said to me was, ‘would Jesus turn me away?’. I was convicted of my sin there and then, and he sat with my family during the service.
We Christians can be a judgemental lot. We need to be ever vigilant to avoid excluding others. We can have the best reasons in our own mind for not wanting to welcome someone, but could that be a factor in our unconscious bias? We can find Scripture to back up our ‘godly rejection’. We can even appear loving by offering conditional acceptance – as long as the person jumps through some hoops. Isaiah reminded God’s people that the temple was meant for all people, and his people had a special calling to include, bless and encourage those from all walks of life.
Here in Australia in 2023, we have new challenges of inclusivity in the church. How do we speak the gospel to our current society? Do we preach that Jesus is the new covenant, and that we welcome all who make that confession and strive to build a relationship with him? We cannot look to disengage with society and live a parallel existence. God said he would bring them to his holy mountain. I pray we welcome them.
Lord God, as you called all nations to worship you in Jerusalem and instructed your people to welcome them, may we welcome those who seek you today. Amen.
Pastor Greg lives in Adelaide and serves as pastor of Golden Grove Lutheran Church and Golden Grove Lutheran Primary School. He is blessed to spend lots of time with his grandchildren, Teddy and Olivia. His spare time is taken up with golf, Formula 1 and going out with his beautiful wife.