Have you ever thought about how many unspoken rules/behaviors that take place in a single church service?
We almost always clap after the first worship song, we know to get the in the "prayer position" when the lights dim, and we know to be respectful and quiet while the pastor is talking.
So what happens when someone disrupts these patterns? How do we react?
Today at church, I was sitting near the back and there was a mentally-challenged older lady sitting close by who was muttering to herself every few minutes. Though it wasn't too loud, she was certainly getting attention for it. Many people around me, including myself, turned around to stare at her. I suppose it was our passive-aggressive way to tell her to be quiet. As I stared at her, I started ask why I was irritated by her. Sure, she was talking out loud, but to be honest, it wasn't loud enough to cause that much of a distraction, let alone, that much attention. I think I was staring her because she was breaking the "norm" of church behavior.
Something similar happened earlier this year. It was again during service, and the pastor had asked the congregation a question. Well...as faithful members of church, we all know that when a pastor asks a question, he usually doesn't want an answer. It's rhetorical. Or something we answer in our minds. A man sitting in the front row, raised his hand to answer the question. He was instantly met with either looks that seemed to question his intelligence or ignored. I watched as he slowly put his hand down, and looked completely dejected. He left soon after that and I found myself deeply disappointed with my fellow Christians.
Yet I found myself doing the same thing today to a lady that did not deserve it.
And sadly these "distractions"-- oh excuse me, I mean people-- are not shown love, but rather the door out. We remove the things causing the disruptions. I've seen it in many churches. An usher quietly walks over to that pesky person who is stopping the faithful followers of the church from listening to that anointed message, and are asked to leave.
I mean really. That's about as Christlike as we can get, right?
Please don't misunderstand me. Order is important. I understand that. I've been to churches where it's pretty much just chaos. But to ask someone to leave, or shoot them dirty looks, because they don't understand the "rules" of church is ridiculous.
If you think about it, most of those who go against the norms, have never been to church before. So how can we expect to instantly know "how to act". We show them the door when we should be welcoming them. Church is supposed to be a place of safety and comfort where believers come together to worship and care about each other. Who cares if someone isn't conducting themselves in the way we expect them too. And if they are honestly being disrespectful or causing a serious distraction to the point where the pastor can't get through his message, then lovingly pull them aside after church and explain why what they did was wrong. Don't just make them leave and not tell them why. That happens far too much.
Oh my goodness.
I just...I hate that we do this. I hate that I do this.
People are so precious and throughout history, Christians and churches have had a reputation of turning away those who need God the most. I don't want to be that Christian. I don't want, nor do I have the right, to judge someone and put them out because they aren't exhibiting proper church behavior like the rest of us.
Jesus is so good and He loves everyone despite their appearance or how they may act. We need to actually live this instead of just saying we do. I feel so convicted because I am so guilty of judging someone based off of their behavior.
But I don't want to be that person anymore. It isn't right. It isn't what we are called to be.