July 28, 2022
By Jo Wiersema
Midweek Musings is a weekly Covenant blog with a variety of authors and a variety of topics.
I mentioned in my sermon on Sunday that I didn’t grow up in the church. Sure, I was shuffled to a Vacation Bible School or two. I ended up following friends to church on Sunday mornings after slumber parties. I spent Wednesday nights in my undergraduate at Lutheran Campus Ministries, as they served the best hot meals for free. Church wasn’t completely foreign to me, but it was something else those other kids did.
My junior year of high school, in AP English Literature, I failed a quiz.
This was a quiz on Biblical allusions in literature, and I was so mad to be, what felt like, the only person in the room who didn’t know the right answers.
The lazy Sunday mornings in my youth of sugary cereal and Nickelodeon felt like a waste of time, as academically I was failing (just a quiz, but still) because I didn’t know who Job was.
Like many, I knew some of the cultural norms...
Something about an apple,
something about a boat and some animals,
I could sing Christmas carols,
I could sing the Godspell soundtrack,
but to be put on the spot, to feel other because I didn’t know the right answers about someone named Job, I was frustrated.
It’s a humbling experience to walk into the room and know you’re not even close to the smartest person there. As a Gifted and Talented kid, as the kid with the good grades, being marked wrong, very wrong, on a quiz stuck with me more than any other graded assignment that year.
My senior year of high school, in AP English Language, we sat down as a class and read Job. We didn’t spend the time alluding to all the other books of the Hebrew Bible like I might do in Seminary now, but we looked at the text like we looked at every other fiction book that year.
We looked at the poetry, at the interpersonal struggle, at the complex plot, and we walked together, as a class through Job. I’m sure I did great on the Job quiz that year. I was made to feel included, cared for, and my lack of knowledge was not othering the way that it was the previous year.
There will always be situations that have a mix of Christians and non-Christians, and there are two ways we can approach that:
With inclusion or exclusion.
I’ve seen this floating around on the internet and I’ve done my best to take it to heart: “I would rather be excluded for people I include instead of being included for the people I exclude.”
So, this is my ode to the unbelievers, because there were so many humans in the first twenty-two years of my life who drew lines in the sand and said I was the other. That my unsaved soul would tarnish their salvation, that my lack of Sunday School would leave me sad and alone at the Rapture.
To the self-proclaimed and externally labeled unbelievers,
to those who love and support all those unbelievers,
to those who just don’t know the right answer:
You are so dang loved.
The education of all is important to the inclusive nature of the church. To dismiss the other is to miss out on so many amazing relationships. To stand alongside an unbeliever is to love first, to be an unbeliever is also an ask to be loving and to love fully.
To those who sat alongside a lonely and angsty unbeliever,
to those who patiently taught me about Job, about David, about miracle after miracle,
to those who maintain patience with learning and love:
To the unbelievers who have been neglected, who haven’t been loved by their Christian neighbor, who maybe failed a quiz and still think about it 10 years later:
I’m sorry, but I promise Christians can do better.