SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSONS
Commentary by Walter Albritton
Exclude No One If You Wish to Feast at God’s Table
Key Verse: Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled. – Luke 14:23
Christianity would be far more effective if Christians could only understand that God wants the church to be a party, not a club. Hundreds of churches are dead in the water because they exist as clubs for members only.
God through Christ has invited us to a party. A party is a gathering where people celebrate and share joy. Everyone feels welcome. No one is made to feel inferior. Titles have no place at God’s party. We are all brothers and sisters for the church at its best is a loving, close-knit family.
Clubs have meetings, not parties. These meetings are often boring, so dull that people lose interest and become inactive. Clubs have prominent members and faceless peons who are expected to remember their place in the pecking order. Clubs have “power brokers” who control things. They subtly force the “little people” to knuckle under and do what they are told.
Membership in clubs is by invitation only. Only the right people are invited to join. Some are black-balled and denied membership. They are viewed by the club hierarchy as second-class citizens, unworthy of a place in the club. Clubs teach their members to understand that some people are of greater value than others.
What makes the church a party is love. When you begin to comprehend that God loves you in spite of your sins, it is party time! It staggers your imagination to learn that the Creator of Heaven and Earth allowed His Son to die for you “while you were yet” a sinner! If God’s amazing grace does not trigger joy in your soul, then nothing ever will.
To discover that the eternal Christ speaks to you those unforgettable words, “Your sins are forgiven,” moves you to celebrate! Suddenly you understand why the gospel is called “good news.” When it dawns on you that you are loved, forgiven, and cherished by God, your heart begins to sing. You realize that God is throwing a party and though you are unworthy, you are invited to feast at his banquet table. The word “Glory!” bursts from your lips because it is party time!
But wait! It begins to sink in that if you accept God’s invitation, you will have to park your own plans. God makes it clear that while all are invited to his party, all are also expected to live by Kingdom rules rather than those of the world. Dedication to the Kingdom reverses earthly values. God values humility, not control. God values people, not power structures.
Not only that, you will have to give up control of your life and live in obedience to Christ. That is not an easy decision to make. You want to run your own life. You want to be the boss. You want to live your way. But God says, “When you accept my invitation you agree to find your identity in me, not in the honors and rewards of the world.”
Now you face the temptation to make excuses! So many do! Since Adam blamed Eve, we have all been prone to offer God excuses rather than obedience. So be careful that you are not the next in line to say, “Lord, I would love to come but not now. I have my own plans and there are so many things I want to do, so please accept my regrets.”
Most of our excuses expose our inclination to “run with the big dogs” rather than trust humility as a way of life. Foolishly we feel we deserve the places of honor so we scramble for position and power. If we play our cards right, we can work our way to the top and grab our share of the glory and prestige of the power brokers.
Such thinking inevitably leads to a sense of superiority over others. The plain truth is that many people prefer the company of a club of “important” people to that of the peons -- the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame. The great error of this way of thinking is this: if we seek honor for ourselves we will be humbled and humiliated by God. He exalts the humble; he humbles the proud. This is a clear principle of the Kingdom.
The club mentality insists that our doors are open only to “the right people.” Thus, one man said to me, “Pastor, it bothers me that lately that the wrong people have been coming to our church.” He meant people of a lower economic status than himself. He was unhappy. I could not have been more pleased. Exclude anyone from God’s party and you immediately lose your own place at his banquet table!
Jesus makes it clear that those who ignore his invitation to his banquet party may find themselves on the outside looking in later on. The time to respond to God is when the invitation is extended. To make excuses and wait may mean that we will miss the honor of feasting at the Lord’s Table and sharing in the greatest celebration ever planned.
Could anything be worse than to miss God’s party? Who in their right mind would settle for the temporary rewards of a club when God has graciously invited all people to a joyous party that will last forever?
Attend the party! Celebrate your forgiveness with people whose worth is simply that Christ died for them. He died for our sins. You are forgiven. He loves us, one and all. He is here. He is coming again. It is party time!
+ + + (Contact Walter at firstname.lastname@example.org)