Rules R rules, but they s___, sometimes.
We do ministry with people that may find it difficult to enter an ordinary church. Despite the fact that church after church after church will declare itself to be a welcoming, affirming community, I'm not sure how many churches have actually had to test that. How do they know? It's so much simpler and more effective to take the church to where the people are--sometimes. Where the people are is where Jesus was. 'Nuff said.
So one of the heartbreaking sorrows of doing what we do is when one of our folks has stepped too far outside the rules--not necessarily at our worship but perhaps during another time on another day. Yes, people make choices. And yes, rules finally have to be applied; or there are no rules at all. So some folks find themselves excluded from what we do.
It's for the safety of everyone, we say. We hope that is true more often than not. Would Jesus have kicked people out of church? We don't know that anyone excluded from one of his appearances despaired and committed suicide. There were prostitution and sexual abuse in his day. There was alcohol addiction, although perhaps not widespread. After all, did anyone besides nobility have a supply steady enough to get wasted enough regularly enough to become addicted? There was mental illness, for sure. There were untreated medical conditions.
We don't know that there were drugs as addictive as we find on the streets today, however. It's a grim existence to supply that habit. Sometimes people fall down, get tired of the hopeless hole they have dug for themselves. And they just want the pain to end. And they can't stuff any more goading, rejection or refusal into an hour of their lives. So they act out--bringing consequences upon themselves.
We don't treat addictions at ONW. We build relationships. Connectedness to people of love and respect can help marginal people keep going from day to day. So when we have to take away that love and respect and cut them off from church too it makes me sick to my stomach. Will this be the night they despair again and harm themselves or someone else--permanently? Everything we have built with them over the past two years is now gone. I mourn.
Tough love is the right thing to do in certain situations. As a parent I know it and have had to do it. But even in the best of circumstances it feels like utter crap. WWJD?
That picture at the top? Taken on dog Mountain, 5/30/09. We have never seen the balsam root and other wildflowers more luxuriant. Same for the picture below. These are pale renderings of the relationship with all of us that God has in mind. This is what God sees and wants for drug addicts and gender benders who know lice, bridges, urine soaked clothes and blankets, rotten sleeping bags, cold, heat, wet, beatings, rapes and infections.
If you knew the life some of these folks know, could never go places like Dog Mountain in the Gorge or places among community equally as beautiful because you were safe and loved there, would you summon the courage to rise again and live another day? For how long?
Pray for them. We've had to cut them off from church, not because Christ says but because house rules say. I'm sorry. It doesn't feel good. Father, forgive us!