Have you ever been invited to an event, but once you got there thought, Why did they even invite me? It's clear I'm not wanted.
It's pretty embarrassing.
A pity invite.
A lead weight in your gut.
It's like you're eight years old again and the new kid in the neighborhood. Your mom's working hard to get you connected so she shares at the PTA that you're struggling to make friends and soon enough you get an invite to a neighbor's birthday. You show up nervous but excited to meet new friends, but once you arrive you watch as every other kid jumps from activity to activity together, giggling and making inside jokes you don't understand, while you watch from the outside and try to act cool. But you're not cool. And you don't belong. And you just want to go home again, where people actually like you and want you there.
Unfortunately there are a lot of people right now who feel this way about connecting with the Body of Christ. We've told them they're wanted. We may have said they belong. We've invited them because our mom said it was the right thing to do, but we don't really want them. We tolerate them. And they can feel it.
Allowing people to attend is not the same thing as really wanting them there.
Allowing them to attend is not the same thing as believing we would be better off, healthier, and happier with them here. Allowing someone to sit at our table is not the same thing as cherishing their presence. It's not the same as being curious about their lives and interested in their unique perspectives.
Church, if we really believe that our God loves big, creates all diversity of humans in his multifaceted image, and is good enough to bless despite our weakness, we have some work to do. Right now our Body is limping along, disjointed and disconnected from other members and from those who don't yet know Jesus.
We can do better! It's time to consider what we might be missing in our fearful exclusivity. It's time to consider the great joy we might experience if we were able to initiate real, vulnerable fellowship with those who are different from us. It's time to go, to take a step into their territory, to meet them where they are and be willing to learn from them.
Let's invite with a spirit of wholeheartedness, rather than one of compulsion. And if we can't do that because we don't really want to, it's time to hit our knees in repentance, because our hearts are not reflecting the One Who Love Us As We Are.
Unsplash: Wolfgang Hasselman