Last night, the church members on our side of the village were meeting together to read the Bible and pray, as they do every evening. The woman whose house we were at that evening had visitors… Her daughter and granddaughter. As we began worship, they scooted out of the circle, into the shadows at the corner of the room. Narath and I protested and invited them to join us. One grandmother in the circle questioned, “but is it okay for them to have worship with us? They go to a different church.”
It’s a sentiment I’ve often seen here in Cambodia, and in America too. In some ways, in the past, it’s been my sentiment. But think honestly with me here… Why? Why couldn’t they join for worship? Because their beliefs are a little different? Because they don’t have the “truth” we do?
The more I’ve learned about Jesus’ life on earth, the more this thing has become clear to me: Jesus never excluded anyone, for any reason. He gave the woman at the well the same attention he would have given to one of his closest friends. He completely avoided discussing their differences, even when she tried to bring it up. He just pointed her to a deeper relationship with God.
And there was Mary Magdalene, Mary the prostitute, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, who seven times Jesus rescued from the jaws of sin. She was one of his closest friends. And then there was Judas, who– well, we all know where his priorities were and where he ended up. Jesus knew too. But when Judas wanted to become one of His disciples, Jesus accepted him.
You know who Jesus did not tolerate? The saints. The church members who had faithfully returned all their tithe, prayed long prayers, and followed all the rules. The ones who refused to associate with Gentiles (foreigners and unbelievers), lest they lose their “purity”.
Of course, we told the grandmother that it was perfectly fine for the woman to have worship with us. Of course, it’s been awhile since I’ve seen a smile as bright as the ones on the faces of that woman and her daughter, as they rejoined us in the circle. We asked her to pray to open our Bible study, and I’ve never heard a prayer in that group that was as emotional and heartfelt as hers. She joined in the study, and even her 10 year-old daughter listened intently and helped to summarize the verses we read. And all throughout, I felt I could feel God’s smile, and His presence with us.
Yeah, our beliefs are a little different. But our God is the same. And He’ll fix that in His time. ❤️