On our trek through life we meet many different kinds of people. Some welcome you with open arms, while others welcome you with gritted teeth and a shotgun behind their backs.
We were visiting The Yukon Wildlife Preserve when our story began. This delightful preserve features over 700 acres, five distinct habitats, and ten major species of animals native to the Yukon, including Moose, Muskoxen, Mountain Goats, Dall and Stone Sheep, Woodland Caribou, Wapiti (elk), Wood Bison and Mule Deer. I couldn’t help but admire the beauty of the natural habitats and the grace of these elegant creatures. In our own corner of the world, we are often privileged to have unforeseen guests, such as herons, wild geese, deer, wild turkeys, rabbits, squirrels, muskrats, and even possums and the occasional raccoon. We welcome these with open arms, and we take plenty of pictures to commemorate their visit. It was no different for us here in the preserve, and my camera was snapping regularly.
There were a couple of fellow tourists on our trip through the preserve however, who seemed to have a different twist on the whole “admiration of animals” idea. Every time we saw an animal, the husband would exclaim: “What flavor does the meat have?” Or “That’s a lot of meat! I wonder if it would fit in my freezer?”
My dad, bless his soul, also admired nature in the same way, to the exasperation of my mom, so this concept wasn’t totally foreign to me; but I was a bit shocked when the couple went on to tell about animal sighting at their home. I was on the verge of telling them how great of an honor I would have considered it to have those same animals at my backdoor, when the wife exclaimed: “Our last animal visit was a pair of rabbits. I ran for the shotgun and we had them for supper. Delicious! Have you ever tasted wild rabbit?”
I didn’t know what to say and was in desperate need of a diversion. I looked out the window of the tour van and exclaimed: “Did you see that Muskox?”
“I wonder what it tastes like?” was the expected response.
Reflecting on these memories, I have to ask myself: How do we treat PEOPLE when we first meet them? Do we use the snapshot method, leaving them with the message that we hope they will return? Or do we tend to use the shotgun method, telling them “Good riddance” when they finally leave? After all, this is the handiest method. At least they won’t be inclined to bother us again!
“But wait a minute,” you may say. “I don’t ever tell ANYONE ‘Good riddance'”!
Maybe not. But remember that being indifferent gives them the same message, and is, therefore, the shotgun method!
This problem rampages in our churches. We tend to avoid getting to know strangers. We brush them off as if they had cooties or something. It’s like some members are getting brownie points for how many people they can brush off in a service.
It’s like they are saying: “I succeeded in brushing off twenty-nine visitors!”
Or: “I ignored forty today! Not bad for a beginner!” “How did you do that?” “Simple! I just made sure not to give them even the tiniest bit of my love!”
So many people, even among our churches, wander, aimlessly lost. People won’t see truth in the face of put-downs and criticism, and those who come for love turn away, never to return. With love being such a rare commodity, how can truth be proclaimed?
Gandhi experienced this first hand. The welcoming committee of the first church he visited grabbed him by the collar and threw him out of the premises, yelling: “Colored people are not welcome here!” Friends, who are we truly following with such an attitude?
How will you greet the next visitors to your church? With a snapshot or with a shotgun?
“Hmmm. Let me think about that one!”
While you are thinking, remember God says: “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (1 John 4:11-12 NIV)
P. S. For the past two weeks we have attended church at a small, local congregation where my son was invited to play the organ. All nine of the regular attendants made us feel like royalty. Brotherly love was evident and we felt so welcome that we would love to visit them again!