The boys in our neighborhood did not play with safety in mind. We climbed the tallest trees, dug the deepest holes, swam with snakes and alligators (yes, really.) We even built bike ramps and jumped over the little kids crouching in trash cans. There was a kid who didn’t fit in. His mom wouldn’t let him do those things. I wish that we hadn’t, but we rejected him; he just didn’t belong.

Look around and people still demand a right of passage or trial by fire for initiation and inclusion. It might be a political position, the right sized bank account, color, sexual orientation, or a hundred different differences. Sadder than Alan, who didn’t fit in our neighborhood group, are those who exclude others from church because they are different.

First recorded when a dignified pastor watched a prisoner go to the gallows, John Bradford said, “There but for the grace of God, go I.” We once were of the membership of the dying, now because of the grace of God in the family of the living. None should be prevented, but all must be urged, to believe, to obey, and to share in the wonderful riches of His grace.

Pastor Pete Pharis