We’ve all known what it feels to be an outcast.
The sting of being pushed to the periphery by people we love and expect love from, is unlike any pain we can ever encounter, because it is injury at the exclusion, combined with the grief at what we’ve lost in the process—proximity. We remember what used to be, how we once felt, where we used to belong. We find ourselves alone and holding solitary vigil for what has died too soon.
The Church produces outcasts far too well.
It tends to create distance with those people who are too something; too messy, too loud, too rough-edged, too needy, too conservative, too left-leaning, too outspoken, too political. We force them from our presence, withhold fellowship from them, and deny forgiveness to them—all in the name of a Jesus who we’ve repeatedly told them loves them. The cognitive dissonance this creates in people is enough to level them, and to distort their image of God for good.
For all sorts of reasons, many of us have been made to feel we are misfits in the places where the people of God gather. A doubt we’ve expressed, a decision we’ve made, or a belief we no long hold, all become barriers. Sometimes this is explicitly stated, and other times it is eloquently spoken in silence and separation. Both are equally devastating and equally wrong.
Because I have good news for all of us religious misfits: Despite what we may have been told—we do fit.
All the outcasts are invited in. Jesus says so. That is the heart of the story. That is the Gospel.
The table of Jesus was scandalously open. He dined with priest and prostitute, with the religious elite and the common rabble, with the spiritual teachers and the street people. And this is the Jesus we are all invited to sit with; without condition, without caveat, without any further renovation.
This elemental truth is so very easy to miss:
Sometimes pastors don’t get it.
Sometimes churches blow it.
Sometimes denominations miss it.
Sometimes it evades the heart of evangelists.
Sometimes other Christians lose sight of it.
Sometimes we forget it.
But it is still the invitation. It is still the irreducible core of Christianity for those who wish to claim it: the radical hospitality of a perfect love that overcomes it all; our mess, our mistakes, our deepest flaws and most spectacular failures.
When a church or a heart has been fully saturated with the love of Jesus, there can be no outcasts in their midst. There will be no place to banish others to, because they will recognize there is no outside to be defined. When the Church or a Christian gets this kind of love right, the world is radically included. Everyone fits. They become in-casts.
This is what you need to know, friend.
Despite what any person says, or what any pastor’s told you, or what you’ve read online on—you have not been cast out, you have been called in:
The door is wide open and no one gets to keep you from entering in and having the run of the beautiful house; with its rooms packed floor to ceiling with goodness that you don’t have to earn or deserve or win.
The day you realize that is the day you’ll no longer wish you could find a home in your own skin—you’ll already be there.