Thursday, August 25, 2016

Undeservingly Accepted and Invited

“If she can’t control her children, she shouldn’t bring them!”
“They need to be doing what those of us who give the most offering request. We’re the ones who pay the bills and keep the place open.”
“[(S)he] has no right to be [teaching, preaching, sitting in that pew].”
“We shouldn’t be doing his funeral. He never even bothered to show up most of time!”

As I was reading thru the texts for this Sunday, my mind immediately went to these things I’ve heard people say. I found myself thinking about the contempt I’ve seen and heard from others that even the undeserving – the criminals and the adulterers and the poor and the non-churchgoers – are forgiven and supposed to be welcome within the church of Christ. I found myself dwelling on how many times I have felt the hurt and pain of this discrimination – whether it was myself in the position of feeling unwelcome, or the witnessing of others being made to feel unwelcome.

And throughout my thoughts, I kept feeling this tug on my thoughts. I kept feeling this tug at my heart and soul. It finally dawned on me that God was trying to get my attention. God was trying to give me a little kick in the pants. God was trying to tell me I was thinking about this all wrong.

In my thoughts of how these people with “power” were putting people down, I was also thinking about how they are the ones who do not deserve to be here. They are the ones who just don’t get it. They are the people who need Christ the most. I found myself thinking of the joy I would feel if I saw them knocked down a position or two – told to move to a lower place at the wedding banquet. I found myself thinking how wonderful it would be to start a new physical church where those of us “lowly and undeserving” would have a truly Christian place to worship.

I was putting myself on a pedestal, believing myself to be better than those in power. I was seating myself in a higher place at that table. I was being one of the proud and haughty. And more importantly, I was focusing on the absolute wrong point of the Gospel. Or, at the very least, I was not placing my focus where God wanted it.

It is true that we should be a welcoming place. We are to accept the poor and lowly as well as those with money and power. Anger about the mistreatment of anyone, especially within the Church, is understandable. But again, this should not be our focus. Our focus should be on God.

The truth is, not one of us is deserving of the love God pours out for us. Not one of us has the ability to pay God back for the blessings he has bestowed on us. God invites all of us to the table – not one higher than another – knowing that not one of us has the ability to repay him. Christ died for each of us – for the forgiveness of all our sins – and not a single one of us can repay him for that.

The most any of us can do is to follow his example – invite the poor to the table. Eat and drink with even the lowliest. Give of ourselves in every way we can to those who need our gifts the most. No, this will not make us more deserving of a seat at that table. It will not raise us up in better standing before God. It will not place us in a position of power before God.

Every one of us has the ability (and often use that ability) to look at what others are doing as wrong. We all have that ability to turn things inward and look to ourselves to speak for God. What we should be doing instead is looking to God in everything, praying for the strength to be the meek and humble people he wants us to be. With every person we meet – whether friend or enemy, one of power or poverty – we should be accepting and loving and compassionate, striving for that unconditional acceptance, love and compassion God has for us. We should be praying for guidance in how we can use our blessings to bless each person, regardless of their status. We should recognize that we ourselves are not deserving of God’s blessings – we ourselves are not deserving of a place at Christ’s table – at yet we are given those things.

We should not look at others as being undeserving, but rather should look at what God has given us personally despite our own undeserving nature, and be thankful and praise him for these gifts. It is out of our humility and thankfulness that we find the strength and ability through God to accept others and share in our blessings.

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