When Marti tells me my hair looks like I just put my finger in a light socket, that means it’s time for a haircut. So yesterday I got shorn. The woman who cuts my hair in town is Caucasian and married to a Latino from Mexico. She’s a Christian and grew up as a pastor’s daughter in an evangelical church.
She announced yesterday, while she was cutting my hair, that she and her husband have finally found a church they like. She said it’s taken over a year to find this church and it’s almost an hour away. When I asked her why, she said it was because it was the first time her husband felt welcome. “It’s hard to worship,” he says, “when you know the person next to you wishes you would go back to where you came from.”
Do you know that feeling? Have you ever felt judged in church for whatever reason? It may just be perceived judgment, but perceived judgment is still real, and it can be triggered by body language or a certain look. That doesn’t mean we should all go looking for a place where we don’t feel judged. It means we may need to be the ones who turn grace outward to those who judge us. Kind of like turning the tables on judgment. After all, Jesus said those who judge are only judging themselves.
But my hairstylist and her husband were fortunate to find a multicultural, multigenerational church — a church “On the Road to Reconciliation” in downtown Santa Ana whose mission is to be the hands and feet of Jesus in their city and beyond. That is grace turned outward. Grace got you in, grace is extended to all.
Grace turned outward is a belief and an action. It’s not just a concept. Hey, if they let you in, they’ve got to let everybody in. You have to see yourself as the worst, and truly believe it, before Grace Turned Outward works.
Most groups operate on the premise: “Become like us, think like us, look like us and we’ll let you in.” When a church does that, it’s an offense to the very message of the gospel. That’s the gospel of non-welcome — the gospel of exclusion.
I can’t think of a church anywhere that wouldn’t say they preach the gospel of welcome, but the question remains: is everybody welcome? My hairstylist’s husband would have something to say about that.
That’s why Grace Turned Outward is so important. Grace outward takes us out beyond being inward and feeling what we feel. It’s about taking grace to others. It’s about getting in other people’s shoes. It’s what we all need.