“Hug First, Ask Questions Later”

Tuesday Re-mix –

When it comes to church, how careful are you about whom you are seen with?  More importantly, when it comes to church, how careful do you think you should be about with whom you are seen?

I’ve been asking myself that question as I meditated recently on Galatians 2:11-21, the story about Paul confronting Peter because Peter seemed too concerned with what his Jewish brothers from Jerusalem might think about his hanging around with Gentiles in Antioch.  Here is how Paul puts it in Galatians 2:12: Before certain men came from James, [Peter] used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group.

At first blush I didn’t see this as a major problem worth addressing in my church, nor in any other reasonably healthy church.  But the more I think about it, the more I tend to believe that we in the American church really do struggle with this (actually I suspect that the church globally struggles with it, but I don’t want to point fingers at my international friends without much more experience than what I have).  I believe too many of us come to church as if it were some kind of country club, there for our convenience and happiness.  In fact, if it doesn’t make us happy, we might just go to some other church to find happiness.  Because that is what we think church is there for…our comfort and happiness.

And let’s be honest, there are a lot of people out there who, by their very presence, make some of us feel unhappy and uncomfortable.  They are different or dirty or smell funny or talk funny or they think very differently than you and I, or they disagree strongly with you and I on moral or political issues, and for these (or any of a number of other) reasons, we don’t really want to be around them.  More importantly, we don’t really want them in our church.

But it was the “church people” who used to watch Jesus and complain about the crowds with whom he walked.  They talked about Him behind his back, sneering at the kinds of people to whom He made Himself available.

And so I’ve begun asking myself a different question now: does anybody talk like that about me?  Are there “church people” out there who complain about the people to whom I make myself available?  If not…shouldn’t there be?

I once sent out a tweet asking for ideas about how to reverse a dangerous trend in the American church (the question actually involved how we shoot our own wounded, but that’s not the point of this post).  I got some interesting responses, but my favorite by far was this: “Hug first, ask questions later.” (Thanks @cultureguy aka Noble Bowman for the response).

I really like that philosophy for church.  I think it is just like Jesus.

© Blake Coffee

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5 responses to ““Hug First, Ask Questions Later””

  1. Barbara Duffield Avatar
    Barbara Duffield

    A great strategy for most all of my life, I’d say. Thank you for this piece, Blake.

  2. I really appreciate this article. Because our church today is exactly like that, I am ashamed to say.

  3. Your articles really hit in the right place in our hearts. We need to be aware of the people around us and let God open our eyes to people, places and things as they are and not as we want them to be. Thank you for your writings

    1. Thanks, Barbara and Paula! Can you even imagine how different our church experience could be?

  4. Amen, Blake! I’ve been thinking about this very issue a lot recently. I overheard a minister telling a person after church that he had just been telling his kids that they were hanging around with the “wrong” bunch of kids. He also said that his wife had decided to join the youth group as a leader because “the wrong kinds of kids were participating.” (Aren’t those the kids we WANT to join youth groups)?

    Now, as a parent, I agree that there are those kids that you’d rather your kiddos didn’t associate with. They are scary to us because of their reputations and behaviors. But I really struggle with this because, what better kids for these troubled youth to “hang out with” than preacher’s kids or my kids? Maybe, by inviting them into our homes they will learn about God’s love and acceptance. Maybe, your child, my child, the minister’s child, will be the one to help that young person change directions.

    It’s a fine line to walk, surely, but I believe it’s one that needs to be walked and if we, as the parents or the adults, are walking the walk, then shouldn’t we expect that our children will do the same?

    I absolutely agree…hug first, then ask questions. Questions are important, but I believe we have to hug (love) first, last, and always.

    Thanks so much for your thoughtful post!

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