Belonging Before Believing

When I was in college, Preacher Bob used to stand out on Library Lawn and shout about how we were all going to hell if we didn’t get our lives together. Fire and brimstone and all.

And I remember thinking that while his intent really was probably good–to lead people to Jesus–this just couldn’t be effective. How many people have actually been saved by a stranger screaming on the street? I bet far fewer than have found Jesus through the kind actions of a loving friend.

Last week, my friend April preached on the idea of hospitality (you can find her sermon here) and this quote absolutely struck me, “Jesus allowed people to belong before he required that they believe. He knew that the belonging would lead to believing.”

That’s what Preacher Bob missed. He was so busy condemning that he forgot about belonging. He was so busy judging that he forgot about loving.

We have to earn the right to speak into people’s lives.

As Rachel Hollis puts it in Girl, Wash Your Face, “Yes, I also believe in holding each other accountable; but accountability takes place inside community and relationships. Holding each other accountable comes from a beautiful place in the heart of friendship that makes you sit down with your friend and ask with love if they’ve looked at their own actions in a particular light. Holding each other accountable comes from a place of love. Judgment comes from a place of fear, disdain, or even hate. So be careful about dressing your judgements up as accountability to make yourself feel better.”

Think about how you treat people in your life. We may be more like Preacher Bob than we realize. Are we quick to judge and condemn? Do we try to preach at people without having earned the place and right to do so? Are we screaming in the street corner (or the Facebook page) instead of loving speaking into those with whom we share our lives?

Maybe we would do well to remember that our first job is to ensure everyone feels as though they belong. To show love and kindness to our neighbors–even those who may not look or act or believe as we do. Perhaps that is the sermon God asking us to preach with our lives. One that leads to both belonging and believing.

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