We have a Narcotics Anonymous group that meets at our church on a regular basis. This morning I was looking for something in the classroom they meet in and picked up their brochure. Under the title “What is the NA program?” was the following:
NA, is a non-profit fellowship or society of men & women for whom drugs has become a major problem. We are recovering addicts who meet regularly to help each other stay clean…There is only one requirement for membership, the desire to stop using…There are no strings attached to NA. We are not affiliated with any other organizations. We have no initiation fees or dues, no pledges to sign, no promises to make to anyone…Anyone may join us, regardless of age, race, sexual identity, creed, religion, or lack of religion. We are not interested in what or how much you used or who your connections were, what you have done in the past, how much or how little you have, but only what you want to do about your problem and how we can help.
My first thought was “What an invitation! That’s exactly what the church needs to be saying to our community. Come on! Everyone’s welcome! We don’t care about where you’ve been or what you’ve done. We’re more interested about where your going. We don’t require complete change in order to join us, but only the desire & willingness to change. We’ve all been there and that’s why we meet together now. To praise the God who changed us and to help one another continue living for Him.”
But then my theology started to get in the way . . . “Well, we couldn’t necessarily say that there is only one requirement for membership, because God demands more than just desire, he demands action. And we couldn’t say there are no promises to make because the Bible contains many things that we must do and practice. And we couldn’t say that we don’t care about their connections or their past because we don’t want them to tarnish the church’s reputation for holiness. And we couldn’t leave sexual identity in the list of those we accept. That would certainly send the wrong message.”
But then my Jesus started to get in the way . . . “Passing along, Jesus saw a man whose work was collecting taxes. His name was Matthew. Jesus said, ‘Come along with me.’ Matthew stood up and followed him. Later when Jesus was eating supper at Matthew’s house with his close followers, a lot of disreputable characters came and joined them. When the Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company, they had a fit, and lit into Jesus’ followers. ‘What kind of example is this from your Teacher, acting cozy with crooks and riff-raff?’ Jesus, overhearing, shot back, ‘Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what this Scripture means; ‘I’m after mercy, not religion.’ I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.” (Matthew 9:9-13, MSG)
What’s interesting to me is that here we are 2,000 years later and we still haven’t gone and figured out what that Scripture means.