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How Acceptant Are You?

Jul 2, 2013

I was raised in a church of Hell and Brimstone preaching. "You're going to Hell if you don't change your ways!!" The preacher shouted behind his pulpit at the congregation. "You see those hippies out there with their long hair and beards??.... THEY NEED JESUS!!" As he pointed his old weary arm at the front doors of the church. I sat there with my eyes wide open and turned around to see if one of those "hippies" was going to come busting in the doors. "You've got to get your life together before God comes!! You've got to get down on your knees and pray that God will wash away your sins!! You don't want to go out into the world and be like one of THEM!! because if you do you are going to HELL!!"
These are the kind of sermons I heard as a young child, and I became AFRAID of this God my preacher spoke of. I avoided anyone that looked like those "hippies". I avoided anyone that didn't look like myself. I was AFRAID of them. I was afraid they were going to lead me to hell. I saw them in my school and would smile and walk hurriedly by. I was never treated wrong by them, but my preachers words would come booming into my head, so I avoided that "group" of people.
As I grew older, I joined the military. Everyone looked the same. Men had that 35-10 haircut (Military haircut). Women either had their hair cut short, or up in a bun. Crisp blue uniforms on with starched creases down the sleeves and front of the pants. I was around people that my preacher stated was acceptable to God. Or so I thought. Over time as I matured, I saw this wasn't so. After basic training and eventually out into the field, I saw that the outward appearance did not make the man (or the woman). People that LOOKED like Christians but did not ACT like Christians. Eventually, the same people that my preacher said to avoid where the same people that became my friends! Except these people LOOKED like Christians when the uniforms came off, but their actions were totally different.
When I got out of the military and came back into civilian life, life took yet another spin off! I saw that I only dated men that wore facial hair and had short beards. They didn't look like the hippies that my preacher had preached over the pulpit about, but yet they were not "clean shaven", "short haired" and wearing penny loafers, slacks and polo shirts (which I didn't like anyways!). I still looked like the girl next door. Long hair down to my waist, conservative in my dressing, and "ladylike" as my strict southern Baptist mother taught me to be. But something was wrong.
My grandparents looked at whoever I would bring home and the first thing my grandpa would say was, "Boy? What is that dirt on your face? Did you lose your razor?" or "Hey boy? Don't you have a barber? You look like a girl!" Needless to say, they would remain respectful and courteous but would never go back again.
As the pages of time went on and events happened in my life, I drew further away from God, and to "the dark side" of life (as my preacher would say). I never drank or used drugs, I never did anything I thought would disgrace my family or their name, but I would have an attitude that was NOT of God's or even remotely close to the way I was raised in church. My outward appearance was NOT what my inside was in tune with. Inside was dark and distrusting. Outwardly I was strong and defiant. Yet my appearance was that that was ACCEPTABLE to the church, but NOT to me!
After the death of my husband in 1998, darkness swept over me and I withdrew into myself. I went to my job daily and did what I was trained to do. But when I clocked out I came home to a living tomb. I saw mankind as an absolute disappointment! I saw people who claimed to be "Christians" to be more dishonest and disobedient than the "hippies" I had been told to avoid! I was judged by WHO I was WITH instead of who I WAS! I drifted even further from "Christians" and people at work that "appeared" to LOOK the part, than those who actually walked the part.
I walked into a church one day wearing my jeans in and sat in the back of the church. No one walked up to me and greeted me. No one shook my hand and welcomed me. But after the service the preacher approached me with a smile on his face, he asked me if I enjoyed his sermon and I said "yes". He looked me in the face and said "Sister, we are glad you came, but they way you are dressed....well.... you need to pray to God about that". I looked at him rather puzzled and walked away. The next Sunday I went back.....in my jeans... (to be honest I didn't have the money to buy a dress). The preacher approached me and welcomed me back. He looked down at my jeans and said "Didn't I tell you to go to God in prayer and pray about this?" I said, "Yes sir I did." And he smiled at me and said, "And did you hear anything back?" I looked at him and said, "Yes sir I did". And he said with a smile on his face, "What did he tell you?" I looked at him and said "Well sir, he was as puzzled as I was because he said he had never been to your church". And I turned around and walked out. I never went back again.
Eventually God in all his glory and magnificence started to work with my heart and my mind. I entered the biker world unexpectedly. I had finally bought my Harley and was alone and an independent rider. I rode by myself as a way to leave the stress behind me. I found my world, unacceptable to some but acceptable to me. I rode in a mental darkness and full of rage. I rode with determination and with rebellion and a distaste for RELIGION and the people that preached it and wallowed in it. I looked at religion as something that was stuffed down my throat and I was to be obedient to the laws of Moses, and to accept ONLY those ADORNED themselves like Jesus, but their talk and their walk magnified only their ignorance.
Today, I am married to that long hair and long bearded biker that truly magnifies Gods glory and love! And my friends and family are the same ones I was preached at to avoid!! Those same long bearded, chain and leather wearing, tattooed welding, bike riding people, are the same people that led me back to the cross!!
I learned a very valuable lesson....It is NOT what YOU wear or a brother and sister wears that gets you to Heaven or magnifies your love and glory for God. It's what's in your heart and your attitude.
The gate can swing both ways. You can wear your leathers and jeans, or you can dress like a pauper, or a rich man. But it is not how you dress that gets you through those pearly gates. It is not your good intentions or how much money you give. It is your relationship with Christ and your attitude towards your fellow man. It is not a beauty pageant that gets you to Heaven. It is the purity of your heart and the relationship you have with Him.

How acceptant are you?

Linda-Sheppard Killip

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