Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.
Bring them in!
In the parable of the great banquet, Jesus said that a man invited wedding guests only for them to make excuse after excuse. As a result, the man extended his invitation outward to “the poor, crippled, blind, and lame.”.
A theme of Luke as well as the gospels is that the kingdom of God might constitute people that people in Jesus’ day might not have expected. Instead of the religiously pious, Jesus extended an open hand to sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes, Samaritans, and other “unexpected” ones.
While time has changed since then, the human condition has not changed, and I wonder if Jesus’ announcement may surprise us as well.
We don’t have many “tax collectors” or “prostitutes” today, but seated at his table will always be the poor, underprivileged, and outcasts of society. Always. These are the people Jesus loves. It is his nature to love the least, last, and the lost.
This made me think–would we be surprised and even uncomfortable by who we’re sitting next to in the kingdom of God?
It is interesting to me the qualms and values I face as a middle-class Christian. It’s almost as if the values our economic class is underpreparing us for who we’ll meet in God’s kingdom.
Think about it–our suburbs are inherently designed to keep poor people out. It’s valuable to live in a gated community to keep the bad hombres out. Our churches are more or less catered for middle-class people. Our American society markets “others” as thugs, thieves, and dangerous people. Yet these are the ones Jesus is inviting in.
Let’s imagine a situation.
How would it make you feel if, upon death, you were seated at the feast in God’s kingdom, across from you was someone of a different culture, perhaps poor, didn’t speak English, having different table manners, wearing different clothes, or other differentiators?
Would it make us uncomfortable? Would it be the first time we’re interacting with someone different than us? Would we be overcome with fear or discomfort?
Or would the image of that potential encounter reveal that perhaps, in the here and now, we are afraid of “the other”. That we have succumb to the un-Jesus-like values our middle-class surroundings and resorted to fear, protectionism, and tribalism?
In other words, would we be surprised by who we’re sitting next to in the kingdom of God?