My first ministry was serving as a Campus Minister. The college campuses were challenging, but fruitful. I was soon teaching an unchurched sophomore who was seeking God, but knew little of His word. He came to faith and was born again. He had some maturing to do, but didn’t we all?
He soon received a letter from the church asking him to help serve communion one Sunday. The letter instructed him to wear a tie, a sports coat, or a suit; none of which he owned. On that Sunday, he reported to where the servers gathered prior to the service; but he was met with disdain. It was his clothes. He wore jeans, sandals, and a t-shirt that had the name of a domestic beer company; something about the water. It offended the communion coordinator who told him he would not be serving, nor would he ever serve unless he conformed to the dress code. My new convert left confused, disappointed, and hurt.
He shouldn’t have worn that shirt. But he really didn’t know any better, he wasn’t raised in church. My guess is that he picked a t-shirt that was clean. I don’t think he noticed and I know he didn’t mean to offend anyone.
Jesus ran into similar problems. Some of the people he was teaching were offensive. They were sinners, tax collectors, even prostitutes. Jesus was confronted for having them in his ministry, for forgiving their sins, and for embracing them in fellowship. He even ate in their homes. Jesus was called a blasphemer, a hypocrite, and a false teacher. I wonder if some of his disciples wore offensive t-shirts? Jesus wasn’t bothered by their criticisms. The people he was serving were those he came to seek and to save.
It can be hard to be like Jesus. It’s odd, but I really like the way Jesus helped those people; but I struggle to like being like him. Actually, I sometimes relate more with those who were his biggest critics. I’m not proud of that, but it’s true.
The student shouldn’t have worn the offensive shirt. But the real offense was in how he was treated. He was made to feel ugly and worthless. It could have been handled with love and sensitivity. But it wasn’t. The modern Pharisees chose to jump down his throat and stomp all over his young faith.
Oh well, I guess the church didn’t really want people like him.