A Stranger in Church

A stranger in church had the power to make us all uncomfortable. When someone doesn't fit with us, can we show love?

I watched as an elderly man with a turban walked into my church, down the center aisle, while the pastor was finishing his sermon. As the pastor was speaking the most important words that summarized the key points of the day’s lesson, this man knelt at the pulpit and then walked directly to the cross and did the same.

And then he got up and reversed his path, walking once again right in front of the pastor, who did his very best to keep speaking.

This wasn’t the first time this man had entered the church. Most Sundays he makes this journey to our Baptist church and to other congregations and other faiths in our neighborhood, a lower-income, culturally diverse area in Central California.

He’s counting Jesus as just one of many Gods he worships. My heart aches for this man. I watched as others in our church tried to ignore him and his weekly pilgrimage through our sanctuary. I watched as the younger in the crowd snickered, uncomfortably, as he made his journey, in bare feet, on a cold January morning.

I watched as once again, on a Sunday, in the very room where we’re taught to be loving, we let him go along his way, never stopping to say anything to introduce him to Jesus, the very God he just took a knee to honor.

I sat in my chair and never moved.
Was I loving? I don’t think so.
Was I concerned that if I got up to talk to this man that there would be a language barrier? Would he even listen to me, a woman? Sure. These things popped into my head.

But I haven’t been able to get him out of my mind. I don’t know his name, but I do know that as he walks from one house of worship to the next each Sunday, he’s lost.

And that makes me wonder just what I can do to love him. I don’t yet know what the answer is, I just know that remaining in my chair, or even adding him to my prayer list, isn’t, perhaps, the only thing I should do.

I am called to love. And I’m called to be brave.
And if I’m being honest, I’m being called to reach out to this man.

Who is God calling you to love? Does it make you uncomfortable? Pray and ask God to help you see that person as God sees them. Take a deep breath and do it.

***

CareyNortonCarey Norton is a newspaper and magazine editor in central California, where she lives with her husband and three very demanding cats. She loves to journal in her Bible and drink iced tea, and thinks the two are best done together with a view of the ocean.

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