I had an interesting experience at church last week and it reminded me of these two stories I have heard pastors use for their sermons.
In the first story, a man is visiting a church. This man sat in a pew and a lady came up to him and said, “I’m sorry, but you are sitting in my pew.” This man got up and moved to another pew. Again, a man came up to him and said, “You’re sitting in my pew.” This happened several times before the man left the church. I have heard this story told by pastors with the message of welcoming new members.
There is another version of this story where the man sitting in everyone’s pew was a homeless man who smelled and wore torn clothes. At the end of this story, he came to the front of the church and said, “You asked me to move because I was sitting in your pew. I have sat in your pew and have died for your sins.” The man was Jesus. The Bible says giving to those in need is giving to Jesus. We should embrace people in need and welcome them.
When I went to church last weekend with my children, I had a similar experience. I drove into the parking lot and saw an open parking space. I drove in and parked, while a car came up next to mine and rolled down the window. A middle-aged woman was in the driver’s seat, so I assumed she needed directions or something.
So I asked, “Can I help you with anything?” What came next surprised both me and my children. She said, “It’s my parking spot. We only have six spots, so you need to move.”
I looked at her, confused for a moment, then I realized she was attending the church next to mine. So I replied, “Well, it’s a good thing I am not coming here to visit your church because I will never come back.” I then drove off and parked my car elsewhere.
The woman pulled out of the spot she was in and moved her car closer to her church. My kids caught this and said, “So she just pulled in next to you to tell you to move your car. Jesus will not like that.” And my kids are correct. What if someone was planning on visiting this church or someone thinking about becoming a Christian? That person may never want to visit another church or become a Christian if Christians treat others this way. My daughter said, “I guess that’s why they only have 6 parking spots; no one wants to go to their church. I love our church. Everyone is nice and friendly.”
People expect Christians to be perfect, but we are far from perfect. Sometimes it takes compassion and common sense. This woman didn’t have either. She taught my children a lesson. She taught them to always welcome others because they know what it feels to not be welcome. It might be a small thing, but for someone searching for a church or someone searching for God, it’s a big thing.