Raging, the man looked at the few persons gathered for prayer.
“This is the worst church in town.” His flaming eyes swept across the stunned group. “Oh, not you.” He flailed his arms toward the leaders. “Not you. You’re good. . . but this church,” he continued. “It’s the worst in town. The scum, the lowdown, can’t trust anybody . . .”
As though a physical punch had knocked out her breath, the pastor’s wife trembled and caught for air. Her first impulse to shout “How could you say that about our dear church?” was repressed. She said nothing; hurt, defensive, shaking, a leaf in gathering storm.
Later, she came to understand. The man was right. It was the worst church in town– filled with lowly people, the pitiful, the addict, the undependable, the poor, the weeping, liars, and thieves. The beat up; the beat down.
She came to regard the man’s remarks as compliment. For had she not asked to be like Jesus, to take on His attributes, to enter into His mind? Had she not? Had not the leaders of the church proclaimed their wanting to be like Jesus? She remembered: Jesus once sat at a well with a prostitute; Jesus mingled with drunks; Jesus taught compassion and bandages for those who lie in bloody gutters; He held sticky messy children on His lap. He lived among the homeless. His group could not claim so much as a storefront, but a hillside must do for the church service some days. A small boat creaking in the water was the church platform more than once. Though He taught there every day, Jesus disdained lofty religiosity and once He went prowling about the elaborate temple where He ministered, and not liking what He saw, he silently plaited leather strips into a whip, then flying into the mess Jesus kicked over the tables, expelled the people and charged that His house should be called one of prayer. Jesus gathered an unlikely ragged group to work with Him and the lunatics followed along and the blind and the wretched.
Ours? The worst church in town? Could be.