Friday, November 19, 2010

Invite Them All!

"Then He also said to him who invited Him, “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. 14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”  Luke 14:12-14

With Thanksgiving next week, throwing a feast or a banquet is high on my mind.  I'm looking forward to celebrating with family and friends, and to be honest, I wish that I could invite more people to our Thanksgiving dinner.  I've thought about it more than once, but you do get to the point where there is just no more room at the table. 

As I read these verses in Luke, I thought about this list of people that we are supposed to invite.  The poor, the maimed, the lame and the blind, and I can't help but think that this list of people has two meanings.  One is a literal interpretation- literally invite the poor and the blind.  But it also means others, those who may be blind to the love of God.  Those who are poor in spirit, and those who don't have a personal walk with God.   Because how could there be a better way to share the love of God!  Really, throw a dinner party and invite both saved and unsaved, and do you know what happens?  Those who are not saved get to spend time mingling with those who are saved, and they discover that life with Christ can be a good thing.  They discover that Christians are still normal people who like to eat and have a good time.

I believe that's one of the reasons we've been having our Friday dinners.  We're a few weeks away from our next one, but when we literally invite everyone we know, we're looking to hopefully infuse some of our unsaved loved ones with the love of God.  It's a really cool and exciting thing.   I think that so often we get the people we know and associate with divided up into groups.  There's this group of people we hang out with sometimes, and then these people are our church people, and then these are our family people, and maybe there's some work people in there too.  Why is that?  When I think back to our wedding all those years ago, that's really the one time in our life where all these different groups of people came together at the same time for the purpose of a celebration- and it was a celebration.  But why do we try and keep different groups of people separate?

It's something to think about, I think.  If you have friends or family who don't know Jesus, what better way to give a gentle introduction that to invite them to dinner with other friends who are saved.  The subject of church or God or salvation may not ever come up, but those unsaved friends will have a wonderful time, and perhaps a door will have opened.

And of course, these verses are also talking about the literal poor, blind, and lame.  Just yesterday I saw on the news a story about crowds of people lining up for food from one of the local food pantries for Thanksgiving.  As I watched this crowd milling about, and they shared how the food ran out after just 90 minutes or so, I couldn't help but wonder why all these people are hungry.  Not in a negative, why aren't they working sense, but in a compassionate sense.  Why are there so many hungry people these days?  Why are these families with young children waiting in line all afternoon, only to be turned away and told sorry, we've run out.  And this was just one particular food pantry.  There are dozens in our area, and they all expect to be short this holiday season.  Why? 

That's a rhetorical why because I don't have the answer.  I know the answer lies with God somewhere and somehow, but I don't know what it is.  I was hearing on the radio the other day about various churches offering Thanksgiving dinners for free for the public.  That's nice, and it's a step, but what about the next day?  What about two days later when the box of Cheerios runs out and the milk has spoiled?  I think the church as a whole is missing something.  It seems to me that churches themselves should be more like grocery stores almost.  Where those who have the ability, but the groceries, and those who need, can help themselves at any time- and the church never runs out.  They never have to turn anyone away, because there will always be more.  And more people will always be welcome.  As strangers walk in off the streets and they wonder how they can qualify for this free food, and then they are simply asked if they are hungry, and then they are encouraged to fill up a grocery bag or two or three with whatever good quality food they can.

That's what's missing.   I'm not entirely sure where that came from today, but there it is.  I can't invite the entire city around me to our Thanksgiving dinner.  What I can do is pray.  And I can prayerfully consider buying extra groceries to take to a food pantry- or maybe I can ask God to bring someone to mind to give the food to.    And I can remember verses such as these today, and when an opportunity comes up, I can be ready to respond. 

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