I remember when I was younger, that my mom used to eat what I considered to be a disgusting snack. She liked pickled pigs feet. Go ahead, say it with me…. EW. I mean, that sounds just about as appetizing as gnawing on a dog’s tail or licking the aluminum can that three days ago held cat food. EW! Why don’t I repeat that? EW!! There are places in the world, Korea, Germany and Ireland, where Wilbur’s ankles cured in brine is a delicacy, which makes me question my original opposition.
To me, it was the most vile thing I could think of, something that should appear on Fear Factor or be fed to a starving lion, but to my mom, it was a mid-afternoon snack. How could two people, in the same family, no less, have such a vast difference of perspective on this matter? That’s the thing about perspective – it’s dependent on experience. She had, gulp, good experiences with pickled pigs feet, and mine were revolting.
In some communities and parts of the world, the nourishing, enriching, fulfilling presence of God that we have experienced is an aberration. They have had bad experiences with nature (tsunami, hurricane, earthquake) and people (genocide, fraud, slavery and rape). They incorporate these experiences into a vision of a God who is vengeful, sly and cruel. Armed with this view of God, based on the creation of his hands and human error, they proclaim their denial of a wonderful, loving God. They have a reaction, like that I have to watching my mom eat pickled pigs feet, when they witness the worship of God’s faithful.
What are we to do with the perspectives-based-on-experience of others? We have to make something of it. I am not saying to chop it up and hide it in a pasta salad (as I fear my mom did with the aforementioned pickled pigs feet), but we need to represent God by our actions, showing by example how palatable his mercy is, how his love covers our sin – like a warm chocolate ganache, how deep and rich is his faithfulness to us… I don’t want to trick anyone into a relationship with Christ. I sometimes feel that is what many churches try to do — let’s lure them in with the promise of “stuff” and then smack them upside the head with Christ’s sacrifice. I want them to go in, eyes, hearts and mind wide open and taste the goodness that lies within.
I think we miss a huge opportunity if we discourage dissent from those coming into our churches. If we scoff at suggestions from the recently unchurched because “we’ve always worshipped this way” we could be contributing to the perception that God’s people (and by extension, God himself) are boorish (ha! sometimes I crack myself up with my punniness), uncouth, intractable, unmoving beings that deserve no more consideration than I gave to eating pickled pigs feet. Don’t encourage them to miss out because your (re)presentation is disgusting.