In the popular TV show NCIS one of the agents is always being called “Probie.” It is a nickname designed to show that person their place. They are not a full member of the team. They have probationary status. They can lose their job at any time if they mess up. When someone is on probationary status in any job, there is the continuous threat hanging over their head that they can be terminated for any reason.
As followers of Christ there is no probationary status. Once someone turns to Christ they are fully with Him. Jesus doesn’t sit back in heaven thinking “OK, there’s a new one. I’ll watch him for a year to see if he can really make it as my disciple.” None of the artificial barriers we like to set up regarding ethnic heritage, economic status, nor gender exist in God’s eyes – we are one in Christ. “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28-29)
One of the privileges I have had in my travels is the opportunity to worship with many different ethnic groups. I have been in the minority on some of those occasions. We had sweet fellowship and worship because of the grace of Jesus Christ. I was accepted as a full brother in Christ. They didn’t look at me and wonder if I would fit in. They welcomed me in. We are not always so welcoming, I think. When someone comes from a different ethnic group, we wonder about them. If someone who had been living an overtly sinful life comes to Christ we rejoice and watch – making sure that the conversion is real and not some ploy to get better sentencing or be around someone they shouldn’t be around. Perhaps we’ve seen too many of those cynical abuses of people claiming to follow Christ.
In truth, there are no “probies” in church. That means that we must accept a believer in Christ at face value. Such acceptance and welcoming may burn us. That will happen. I wonder, though, how many times God might feel burned because I don’t live up to His ideals. Today look at those around you who claim to be followers of Christ. Don’t look at ethnic divisions. Don’t worry about economic status. Don’t erect a barrier between male and female. Welcome them as a fellow believer whom God loves fully. There will also be those around you who don’t claim to follow Jesus. Don’t focus on the differences, the need is the same. Show them the love and grace of Jesus also.
Lord, how often do I set up artificial barriers to fellowship? I believe that I can’t fellowship with other believers because there’s a difference. I can’t share Your love with non-believers because of the differences. Break down those barriers I’ve set up and help me to show Your love to all without division.