Welcome as You Have Been Welcomed

David Wiggs tells this story: “I saw him in the church building for the first time on Wednesday. He was in his mid-70's with thinning silver hair and a neat brown suit. Many times in the past I had invited him to come. Several other Christian friends had talked to him about the Lord and had tried to share the good news with him. He was well respected and honest, a man of good character. He acted much like a Christian would act, but he never came to church or professed faith in Christ.

“After I got to know him pretty well, I asked if he had ever been to a church service. He hesitated. Then with a twisted grimace he told me of an experience he had as a boy. He was raised in a large family. His parents worked hard but struggled to provide adequate food and clothing for the family. When he was around ten years old, a friend invited him to go to church with him. He went and thought the Sunday school class was great. The songs were fun to sing and the Bible stories were exciting to hear. He had never heard anyone read from the Bible before. As class ended, the teacher pulled him aside and said, ‘Son, please don't come again dressed as you are now. We want to look our best when we come into God's house.’
He looked down at his old hand-me-down overalls that were certainly worn and tattered. He thought about that for a moment and said softly, ‘No ma'am I won't ever.’ Then he looked at me and said, ‘And you know what. I never did.’ It was clear that he was done with that conversation.
“It was last Wednesday that I saw him in the church building for the first time. I cried as I looked at the immaculately dressed older gentleman lying there in his casket. He was looking his best. But all I could think of were those words of an impressionable little ten-year-old boy echoing in my mind, ‘No ma'am I won't ever.’”

Friends, this story reminds me of how important it is that we reach out to others and welcome them in the name of Jesus. That Sunday school teacher probably had good intentions when she encouraged that little boy to “dress his best” for church, but her words wounded him terribly. If only she had put her arms around the dirty little boy in the ragged overalls and said, “Son, I am thrilled that you came this morning, and I hope you will come every chance you get to hear more about Jesus and how He loves you so much.” It would likely have been even better if she had consulted with her pastor or Christian friends and figured out a way to provide financial help for this needy family.

We all need to remember what the Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 15:7, “Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” In other words, those of us who, through faith in Jesus, have experienced God’s amazing grace, have every reason to show grace, love, and respect to others, especially to those who clearly need these things in their lives. Whether we are at home, school, work, or church, may the Lord help us to welcome others, as He has welcomed us.
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Dan Erickson