Todays inspiration came from an e-mail invitation I received.
I opened up an e-mail today from the company that sends me a magazine. They were asking me to take a survey:
"Hi Jeanette, please share your opinions.
To make sure we are on track, we've sent some questions to a select group of readers to find out what we're doing right and what we could do better."
It will only take 10 minutes to fill out our survey.
Thanks for your time!"
So, with about 15 minutes to kill, I clicked the link to go to the survey.
It asks me to put in my e-mail address and immediately after I do, the screen changes to give me the message:
"Thank you for your willingness to share your opinions with us, but unfortunately you did not meet the criteria to take a survey today. We hope you will participate in future surveys."
Wait a minute - I thought I was one of a 'select group of readers'. Am I or aren't I? If I don't meet the criteria, why'd you send me an e-mail? Why did you tell me I was a 'select group'? Why would I waste my time coming back to take future surveys? I don't "meet the criteria!". Send your e-mails to someone that does meet the criteria. What I think is that you sent that same dumb e-mail to every person on your address list, and then told your computer which e-mail address "did not meet criteria".
I don't get angry often, I consider ranting more of a fun sport.
But as I thought about how I didn't meet their criteria, I saw something in there about my relationship with God.
For God so loved the world
Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned
Not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
It makes me nervous when you cast a wide net.
It's not so much the salvation part that I'll struggle with. Anyone can click the link, every subscriber gets the e-mail. You're in. But it's when you go to actually do something that someone pops up and says "Thanks for being willing to try and minister to _______, but unfortunately you don't meet the criteria to minister to ______ today. We hope you will participate in future ministries."
Maybe you're divorced, failed to remain abstinent, maybe you've got a few tattoos, or haven't been able to quit smoking. Maybe God has something for you to do, but unfortunately when you go to minister you've got to get past the God-Squad, well-meaning brothers and sisters in Christ whose internal workings are already programmed with the "Christian code" that automatically kicks back some volunteers with the "unfortunately you don't meet the criteria" message.
Before you've even turned around to walk away you're probably already doubting that you'd heard from God because people are a lot easier to hear than God is. And people said you aren't qualified. The next time the message comes to to to do something, you're probably going to kick it back saying "I don't meet the criteria" and rarely try again. I know I'm not going to click the "take the survey" button again.
Just because the net is so wide, "everyone" and "all" are welcome, doesn't mean you feel like you belong. Some fine dining restaurants don't have a dress code that they enforce, but the minute you walk in wearing your shorts and flip flops, you know that sure, you can come in because everyone is welcome, but you you do not meet the criteria.
Church people tend to behave a certain way. Most church people, meet church people criteria if you know what I mean. Yet, when Christ was on earth he didn't meet the criteria either. He spoke to people that weren't morally acceptable enough to be spoken to by other peoples standards. He touched people that, by law were unclean and couldn't be touched. He said things, that absolutely confounded other leaders because they weren't the acceptable things to be saying. He even ate wrong.
All that said, it makes me wish less and less of us met the criteria. Maybe it's that very criteria and how well you meet it that decides if you're going to be a "church people" or a "Christian".