Walk with me here for a few moments...
We (the church) have often functioned under this paradigm:
1) BEHAVE--an outsider must first prove to us that they can behave.
2) BELIEVE--if you prove to us that you can behave, then we will help you learn how and what to believe.
3) BELONG--once you prove to us that you can behave and we help you learn to believe, then we will let you belong.
If we take Jesus seriously, he works under a different paradigm:
1) BELONG--Jesus lives in a way that he gave value and dignity to every human soul. "Sinners" wanted to be around him. He gave them a sense of belonging.
2) BELIEVE--it was through belonging that Jesus taught people how and what to believe.
3) BEHAVE--after giving dignity and ushering people into a belief, there came a time and place to teach people how to behave.
I like Jesus' model better.
Many churches carry the slogan "Come just as you are" and/or, "All are welcome here," but...
Are we ready to embrace the 19-yr-old with blue hair?
Are we ready to give a seat next to us on our pew to the 28-yr-old x-con who has tattoos from head-to-toe?
Do we give a voice to the 21-yr-old woman who has 4 kids by 3 different men?