London - an infrastructural wonder, a heaven for foodies (read : deprived beef-eaters), historical every step of the way and royalty. Magnificent royalty. These are a few of the words I associate with London - where I recently went on holiday. Apart from these, the other beautiful thing was the weather. The soft breeze, the chilly air and glistening sun - made for perfect holiday weather for this hard-core Mumbai-ite who has gotten used to humidity for three seasons of the entire year.
People of London are different from the ones I'm familiar with. They're helpful, polite, orderly… and just not what I’ve been used to. I'm loud, boisterous, know my neighbors and all the important things about them that there is to know, I'm friendly and can crack up a conversation with absolutely anybody. I once did that, (start-up a conversation) with our driver when I found him dozing off while driving on a steep hill. But that story is for another time. Essentially, I felt like an outcast. When I stepped into the tube and looked around, I saw fine men, women and kids, dressed to perfection with make-up and all. I stood out in my yellow walking shoes, t-shirt and folded jeans.
I’m usually up for any kind of banter, but in London I found out that I couldn’t even hear what the Londoners said and hence, couldn’t respond! I had to either ask them to speak up or drag my brother into the conversation. Phew! What fun though! To be forced to come out of our comfort zone, humbled and to just learn!
And the rules... You know, in London, the right side of the elevator is reserved for the people who want to stand and the left side of the elevator for the ones who’re in a hurry and want to run and EVERY single person sticks to this ‘rule’. On the road, they have crossing paths and there's a button to press that directs people to cross or wait. And almost EVERY single person follows this rule! There are blue paths along the road for cyclists to use. The vehicle always waits for the pedestrians to cross the road irrespective of the light being red or green. Afternoon tea is a big thing there and one has to be formally dressed to enter into the big restaurants that offer these services. There are only two malls in London! Whoa! I lived in London for a whole of three weeks and I was stumped by all the differences that existed.
Until I went to church.
The entire service schedule was printed and given to every person at arrival, there was a Bible and a offertory envelope kept on every seat and the speakers were affable and laughed more than any Londoner I had met. The worship leader took contemporary songs but rendered them in a semi-traditional way, he even made a mistake and joked about it! There was a special Sunday school song and when the kids sang and acted it out, it was adorable. Little ones excitedly running towards the stage and falling off and all! As soon as the service concluded, a woman sitting behind us started talking to us and asked us all about us and told us all about her. At the end of the service she left by saying, “I came in with two kids and now I’m leaving with four! Even as we walked down to the exit, there were plenty of friendly smiles. This was it – I was home!
The awareness that “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son...” is such a humbling and unifying factor. We are all sewn into the same tapestry. We’re just different designs, each having its own beauty and loving the other’s too. I was reminded of my home church – New City Church – where we love seeing new people walk in, where we love doing meals and coffee with our new friends, and where we love building friendships with everyone irrespective of any differences that we may have. That’s what God’s church is to do, right? Love, accept, not judge, not condemn…just be the conduit of love that began with God and flowed through Christ into our lives. And no matter where we go, this love will reign, this fountain will overflow! And I’m so encouraged by the thought that my family isn’t restricted to my blood, but extended to and through Christ’s blood.
"For who can separate us from the love of Christ?" Romans 8:35. In fact, the love of and for Christ only binds us all together.
WE are the church! Individually and cumulatively!
The deepest desire of my heart is that this post would encourage us to love the ones we are unlikely to love, to accept the ones we are struggling to accept, to let go of our judgmental thoughts and throw our arm around a friend and be just that – a friend.
‘Cos that’s exactly what Christ did with me and with all of us.
Let the church song echo through all eternity - it’s the most melodious, profound and the only permanent sound of all!
Photo Credit : Unsplash