A few blocks from my house is a charming, well-kept older house. It is clear that someone, probably the lady of the house, has a decorator’s touch with a beautiful lawn and garden. One item that stands out is that they have one of those decorative flags hanging from the front porch. You know the type, they have pleasant pictures or nice messages on them. This one says “Welcome.”
But it seems they also have a problem with their gravel driveway. The house is a convenient place for motorists to turn around and I suppose many do, tearing up the driveway. Someone, probably the man of the house, has taken steps to prevent this. He has placed a chain across the driveway. Hanging from the chain is a sign saying “Keep Out.”
So there you have it, two signs, giving opposite messages. If you were a person seeking to stop at the house, which one would you believe? If you are like most people, negative messages have more power then positive ones. You would probably prefer to not take the chance.
So what is the point here? Just this – we Christians are very adept at doing the same things as those homeowners. We invite, indeed eagerly invite, unbelievers to join us, to become part of the family of God. And we are often puzzled why they do not accept. We chalk it up to their “being blinded by Satan” or “being unwilling to yield their lives to the lordship of Christ.” And we may be right to some degree.
But we also need to consider something else. Having just given the “welcome” invitation, is there a “keep out” sign hanging somewhere on me? Am I in some way communicating that my welcome may not be all that welcoming? There could be many ways to do that. Here are a few that comes to mind:
- Joylessness. Is my attitude such that I communicate that, in my Christian life, there is not all that much to be joyous about? I am not talking about a perpetual “happy face.” People easily see that for the falsehood it is. Perhaps a better word would be contentment. Do I show a peace that can’t be understood by simply looking at the circumstances of my life?
- Hypocrisy. Is there something in me that sends a message opposite to the one that I preach? The world is particularly on guard for this.
- Judgementalism. Yes, I know we are called to make judgments and we don’t ignore sin. But we need to earn our right to speak to these issues. Nobody will accept my input on their sins until they trust me as someone who loves and respects them and has their best interest at heart.
- Majoring on minors. Too often we come across as people more concerned about whether a person behaves the way we want, for example on the consumption of alcohol, than about their true well-being.
It is frankly a mystery to me how the folks I spoke about earlier have made peace with having both “Welcome” and “Keep Out” signs on their property. But as a believer it causes me to want to take a step outside my life and take a look to see what signs I am hanging out. If you are stopping by Trinity EFC someday, let us know what signs you see hanging out.