The question of who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’ of any group is usually decided by a few people in power. It can be decided by a committee, a dictator or it can simply be because someone is born into it. I am an Australian for two reasons, first I decided I wanted to be but then I had to submit the decision to those in power – the Australian government – to decide. Advertisers also create desire and encourage people to become part of a group by buying a certain product that will make you cool, rich, young, or wise, all of which give us a sense of belonging. The power to include has an equal power to exclude. There are many people who have applied to live in Australia and who are in likelihood more deserving than I am but cannot. Often this is because of circumstances outside of their control (finances, colour, education, family, ethnicity, etc)
But who decides who is or isn’t a Christian, or who is included in the Kingdom of God? Now my guess is that most of you will answer that it is Jesus or God who decides, but is that really the case? Don’t we also decide who we think are worthy? Who we want to journey with us? Don’t we want people like us? Do we put up barriers (sometimes subconsciously) to exclude, such as when and where we meet, what we expect people to wear, the songs we sing, the level of education we expect? A person’s sexuality, ethnicity and so on?
We ALL do this in one way or another but Jesus didn’t. He was accused of eating with ‘sinners’, and being a drunkard, of mixing with immoral women. He included tax collectors, the sick, unclean people, demonised people in the Kingdom he was demonstrating. He ate and fellowshipped purposely with those on the outside – especially those with whom the religious leaders disapproved of. He modelled the fact that EVERYONE is on the inside, EVERYONE is included in the kingdom and has a seat at his table and wedding feast. We need to start considering what it looks like to model to those in the world that we are co-invitees to the biggest party ever rather than the bouncers on the door, deciding who gets in! This means that we need to find ways of making our own table bigger and also sitting down with others at their table.
My prayer is this: “Jesus, please let us be known as a church who eats with ‘sinners’, who recognise that we are not the hosts or the bouncers who decide who is in or out. Let us not only rejoice because we have been included in your invite but also rejoice because we have the joy of letting everyone else know that they are included too!”