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Connecting faith to life: It's time to erase the fine print

I am not a big shopper, but when I do need something, I love a good deal.

So when my husband needed a new pair of jeans, I set out with coupon in hand. Yet once I got to the store, it took me awhile to read through all the exceptions listed on the bottom of the coupon to make sure what I was buying wasn't on that list.

This got me thinking of the times we do the same in our own lives and congregations. For example, most of us would probably say "everyone is welcome" to our church.

We invite visitors and are grateful when they come. Yet how many times does a visitor come through the door only to realize the small print on the sign out front should have said, "Everyone is welcome to worship here unless you are _____ or except _____."(You fill in the blanks).

Similarly, how many times do we avoid eye contact with someone or fail to smile at them simply because of how they look or act? Oftentimes, we do this unintentionally, but we do it, nonetheless.

Sometimes it's tempting to look at another person and think, "If only they..." or "They should..." But these thoughts aren't very welcoming. They give the impression that we'd be more accepting of someone if only they dressed or behaved differently. Or that God would somehow love them more if they did.

We have to remember that there is level ground at the foot of the cross. When Jesus died on the cross to show us God's love and forgiveness, there wasn't any fine print at the bottom. Yes, God has ways He desires us to live in relationship with one another and with Him. But none of those desires are requirements for access to God's love and forgiveness in the first place.

Consider what fine print might be written on the welcome mat of your life. I invite you to erase it.

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Kari van Wakeren, a pastor at First Lutheran Church in Alexandria, can be reached at kari.vanwakeren@firstlutheran .