Macayla Church is a sophomore majoring in Psychology and Spanish, with a Certificate in Criminal Justice. She shared this story at Worship on October 6th, 2019, for the sermon series, “Questions Jesus Asked,” with the focus on the question, “Does this offend you?” from John 6:41-71. You can also listen to her share it here.
I grew up in a small town with about two thousand people in it, and I graduated in a class of 45. My parents told me that they believed in God, but we never went to church, and I never really knew what Christianity meant. It was up to me to decide what I believed in. When I was in 5th grade, I decided to start attending a small group at a local church that all my friends attended. It was the largest one in my area, even larger than the school.
I have always been a very inquisitive person, but I did my best to sit quietly and not ask any questions. The leaders of my group always told me that I had to be 100% sure in Jesus and who he was, without question. But when you’re 12, are you really sure about anything? I didn’t understand how to deal with my first real crush on a girl in my small group, how to respond to the onset of my mental illness, or even how to read the bible. I decided not to express my confusion and uncertainty but someone else did. She was told that she would be going to hell.
Between that bad experience and the deep depression that I found myself in, I decided to leave the church and not come back. I decided that it wasn’t worth it to be part of a community where there is no room for doubt, questioning, or hard things because in real life, things aren’t so straightforward. Understandably, when I came to Madison, I was a little bit apprehensive about any faith community at all.
However, things were starting to become a bit better in my life, and I was desperately in need of friends, so I decided that looking for a student organization would probably be my best option. Several of the most important people in my life were Christian, and if they were amazing people, there have to be others who would accept me for who I am as well. I attended Frunch, but that was only the beginning. What truly caused me to give a second chance at my faith were the signs in front of the church. The pride flag and inclusive statements gave me a rush of excitement and I knew that the people here wouldn’t be offended by who I am.
When Jesus asks “Does this offend you?” I believe He meant to challenge a lot of people’s faiths. He radically loves even those who are considered to be at the bottom of society, including those who many believe are “crazy” or “dirty” or have very little to offer. He sacrifices himself for those who may not even give anything in return. How do we love the people who have hurt us and learn to truly forgive? How can we give all of who we are to helping people who may not do the same for you? Radical love is a hard lesson to learn, and it is very hard to come by, but Pres House is the closest that I’ve ever come.