As I sat with my legs sprawled across the sorority house floor, the head of our sorority rush team walked up. “Can I talk to you?” she asked, looking directly at me. Confused, I followed her to the corner of the room where we were less likely to be overheard. “Look, you need to take out your lip ring. It could scare potential recruits” she commanded. My eyes widened in shock, and I stood quiet for a moment as I processed my response. “No” I stated simply. I liked the way that I looked, and I did not want someone else telling me how I should dress. Just then, another member of the rush team walked up, looking concerned. “You cannot tell her to take that out! I’m sorry Lindsey” she said. Relieved, I walked away and hoped that would be the end.
While it was the end of the conversation, my thoughts about my lip ring lingered. In fact, it has been ten years since that moment, and I still remember it vividly. I felt attacked that someone would tell me I would scare the freshmen at my university away from my sorority just through my appearance. And, more significantly, I felt different from everyone else. Like I did not belong in the group even though I had been chosen as a member just one year before. It hurt to be in a community but feel as though I did not belong there. This conversation was nothing compared to true discrimination, but it did affect the way I saw myself and how close I felt to those around me.
Just like the head of my sorority rush team thought that members of our organization must all look and dress a certain way, some believe that Christians must be a certain way as well. Thus, they try to exclude people from the Church based on their wealth, health, experience, or appearance. But no one that God accepts can be excluded from His people. So, who does God say the gospel is for?
The book of Acts reveals who God includes in the Church, which is His people. Acts tells the story of the formation of the Church. Throughout the book, people from different regions, ethnicities, socioeconomic classes, and appearances are saved by God’s grace and brought into the Church including Jews and Gentiles (the name for non-Jews).
This may have seemed strange to a man like the Apostle Peter. Peter was a disciple of Jesus who followed Him throughout His ministry on earth and carried on Jesus’s mission after His ascension. Peter was also a Jew who had spent most of his life following Jewish laws and customs, including keeping his distance from Gentiles because they were considered unclean since they did not follow the laws of the Old Testament (Acts 10:28).
However, one day, a man named Cornelius visits Peter after receiving a command from God through an angel (Acts 10:17–33). Even though Cornelius is a Gentile, he fears God and obeys His command to see Peter. As he meets with Cornelius, “Peter began to speak: ‘Now I truly understand that God doesn’t show favoritism, but in every nation the person who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him” (Acts 10:34–35). Peter realizes that God’s people include all with faith in Christ, no matter their race, ethnicity, or adherence to the Mosaic law.
Jesus did not die for the sins of one race, one gender, one nation, or one tribe. Instead, all who have been saved by grace are made pure by the blood of Jesus. As Paul reminds us in Galatians 3:27–28, "For those of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ. There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Christ Jesus." His blood washes away the sins that defiled us. Thus, God has made each of us clean in Christ.
There is no one on earth who can now call believers impure. There is no nation, ethnicity, or political group that God favors above another. Instead, His message is available to all, and His Church is filled with people from across the world, regardless of their profession, income, skin color, level of education, or appearance. No man can make impure what God has declared to be clean. While others may show favor based on how we look or what we have achieved, God does not. Instead, God sees the perfect righteousness of His Son that has been credited to us by faith. We may be cast aside by others who judge us for our looks and experiences, but we are fully accepted by God through faith in Christ.
If you have been saved by God’s grace through faith in Christ, you are a member of His Church. However, if you struggle to feel like you belong in the Church because of what others have said or done, take some time to prayerfully consider the following questions:
- Is there something that makes you feel outside of God’s family? What does Scripture say instead?
- What have others told you are the requirements for being a member of God’s people? What does Scripture say?
Additional resources on understanding the gospel