"And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed Him." Matthew 20:34 ESV
Everything about Jesus was different. The way He approached the Law, viewed the family of God and created disciples. Though He was nothing special in appearance, He was radically different in demeanor, and whew, did He make the religious elite uncomfortable.
That was 2,000+ years ago. What do you think Jesus would do if He came back today and sat in our churches? Would His words be harsh, as they were with the Pharisees, or compassionate, like with the tax collectors? Would He chastise His people for their love of ritual and separation or commend them for their desire to serve Him and love others?
Of course the answer depends on the person, but if we honestly asked these questions of the Church today, could we say with confidence that Jesus would be pleased? Put another way, would Jesus feel welcomed by the Church today?
Remember, Jesus was different. He didn't come as a legalistic religious elite, but a common man. An uneducated carpenter. He dined with tax collectors and prostitutes. He chose fishermen to follow Him. He came to save the sick and lost.
Is that the message the Church is conveying today?
No, we don't view tax collectors and fishermen the same today as they did back then (at least, not fishermen), but we certainly have social outcasts.
At least, what the Church deems social outcasts. Folks with tattoos, piercings, pink or purple hair. Bikers, former gang members and those in the LGBTQ+ community. People with holes in their jeans or wrinkles on their shirts.
Would these people feel welcomed and loved, no matter which church building they entered? Is their perspective of the Church that we love as Jesus loved or we judge as the Pharisees judged?
Ask most non-Christian young adults today, and they'll say the latter. No, they probably won't know what a Pharisee is, but they know what judgment is, and they know when they're not welcome.
Is their perception of the Church justified? Yes and no. Unfortunately the Church has been marred by some bad grapes, but the vineyard hasn't exactly produced the sweetest of wines.
For some of the young adults I'm working with, I know they wouldn't feel welcome in most churches because they haven't been so far. Yes, these folks are different. Their hair might be pink, they may have a sleeve of tattoos and they might be gay. Yes, they're different, but God looks on the heart, not the exterior. Jesus welcomed everyone and loved each of them the same.
Now, this isn't to say we're all judgmental and unwelcoming. Nor is it to say that we should commend certain lifestyles for the sake of "tolerance." Rather, it's to remind us that we all fall short of the glory of God, and Jesus invites us all to come to Him as we are.
Embracing someone in a way where they feel welcomed is entirely different than turning the other cheek to their sin. Jesus welcomed us and transformed our lives, let us do the same with those who are different than us. Welcome them with open arms and point them to the One who will forever change their souls.
English Standard Version Bible. (2001). Crossway Bibles.