We all know the sign. When you drive up to any convenience store, grocery store, or restaurant, it’s there. No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service. In a simple way these institutions have communicated that they do not want you walking naked and barefoot into their establishments. It’s not much to ask, but it keeps the proper decorum of these fine establishments.
As I read through scripture this morning, I noticed a verse that had all but escaped my attention for the past 30 years of my life. This verse sits at the end of chapter 16 of the book of Romans directly after one of those long lists with names in it. I don’t know what it is about me, but when I see names in a list in the Bible my eyes just go into skimming mode. I think for the past 30 years I have just skimmed over this verse because of its proximity to a list of names.
Romans 16:17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.
The church exists to glorify God by bringing the hope of Christ to men without hope. We are called to meet our neighbors and friends where they are. Our temptation, though, is to place signs on our windows that set a decorum for our fellowship. The longer we know Christ greater this temptation is. Our no shirt, no shoes sign requires people to dress certain ways, live morally, and come with a reverence towards God before God ever changes the heart. This practice is contrary to scripture. Do we celebrate their sins? Absolutely not. Should we love the hopeless, bringing them to the source of hope? Yes!
What doctor looks at a patient in the hospital with cancer and tells them to come back later once they have healed… then he will treat him. It would be malpractice. As Christians we are called to bring sick men to the true Physician. The question is whether or not with good intentions we have sent them away to heal on their own because of our decorum.
What hit me this morning was one word… obstacle. Have I with good intentions created obstacles for hopeless men? As Christians we must look with critical eyes at our churches and ask what obstacles have we built with good intentions. Once we begin to see them we must tear them down so that we might be able to bring the love and hope of Christ to every man.