As many of you know, I’m a bit of a fan of karaoke singing. Some of us from Connect would go along to Ben’s Karaoke at a local bar on Friday nights. I can already feel some people’s disapproval, but please read on.
During these nights I met many Christians and I also rubbed shoulders with others who actually needed to hear that Christ loved them. When people began to trust me some folk started coming to Connect. Sadly I was criticised by some of our own people for being “a pastor in a pub.” This led me to stop attending for a whole year. The people needing the love of Jesus also stopped coming to Connect. This week Ben asked me if I would like to go to some karaoke singing training at a bar in Otara. With fear and trepidation I went. To my delight the Christian trainers started the night praying to Jesus Christ, and finished the night praying to Jesus. The pub was closed to the public and everyone only drank tea and coffee (not that alcohol in moderation is a sin).
Today I am freshly reminded that we are called first to love and not to judge. Jesus says in Mt 19:19, “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Just to be sure that we get it, Christ repeats it in Mt 23:29 – “Love your neighbour as yourself.” The same thing is repeated in all the gospels. Christ hung out with the marginalised, the oppressed, the lonely and the broken. He didn’t judge from afar. He got to know people. He listened to their stories, wept at their distress, and prayed for them. He came to seek and save the lost. Jesus says that one sign of the end of the age is that “the love of most will grow cold,” Mt 24:12. During his Sermon on the Mt, Jesus said, “If you love those who love you what reward will you get?” So I challenge us all, with Christ’s words, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven,” Luke 6:37. Let’s all be intentional about witnessing the love and hope of Jesus Christ by associating with people who don’t yet know Him.
And let’s also look in the mirror before we criticise our neighbour. Then, and only then will we see our church grow as Christ intended.