In recent weeks our mailbox has been full of invitations: wedding, graduation, 65th anniversary for a ministry to orphan children, Pampered Chef, BBQ's, birthdays, 50th wedding anniversary. We cannot attend them all but will make a special effort for those dearest to us.
I remember when I made wedding plans 16 years ago I combed through invitation books in search of the 'perfect one'. We wanted the invite to reflect our personality yet also evoke tender emotion and sentiment to our proclamation. I imagined what each friend would think as they opened the envelope and their eyes met their personal invitation. Would they be joyous? Questioning? Affirming? Would they celebrate? Would they come?
Similarly, our lives are an invitation. How we interact and respond to others reveals how openly we invite people into our life. Does our life say "welcome" or is their caution tape around our heart? Do we hold people at a distance or is our life receptive to their hurts and needs? Perhaps we are we closed off and only exclusive to our inner circle. Maybe we are too busy or simply lack compassion for the lost.
When we experience Christ's radical love, forgiveness and grace, a natural response should be to share it with others. Sadly, many choose to keep it to themselves. Recently my friend Lisa said, "If we had an immediate cure for cancer would we keep this knowledge locked up in us? Are you kidding, it would be headline news!" Truth is, we possess the greatest cure for all mankind; the cure for hopelessness, brokenness, and sinfulness. We cannot keep this love to ourselves!
A look at the life of Jesus quickly reveals that people were a priority to Him. People were His passion. People fulfilled His purpose. He came so people might come to know Him. He made time for others. He welcomed them with open arms. He lavished His grace and mercy. He extended compassion and love. He corrected community wrongs and He delivered justice to the oppressed.
Christ extended an invitation with nail pierced hands written with His own blood. If people are a priority to Christ, they should be for us who call ourselves Christians. As our key verse shows, how will others know Christ if we don't tell them or express Him to them?
Matthew 25:35-46 reveals Christ's priority regarding others. Jesus is teaching His disciples the separation He will make between the sheep and the goats at the end of time. He tells them in verses 35-36, "For I was hungry and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me." He continues in verse 40, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."
All five of the examples Jesus uses involve people. He makes a direct connection to how we welcome others into our lives and minister to their needs. How we respond to others is actually equated to how we treat Christ. In verse 45 He concludes, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me." Ouch. This reality should cause us to view others through the eyes of Christ. When we view others through this lens it helps us to respond to others with love. In effect, how we treat others is how we treat Christ.
I received a life changing invitation in junior high. As a twelve year old young girl I was insecure and unstable. I struggled with a difficult home life for a variety of reasons. In the small community where I lived there was a vibrant and healthy youth ministry. Our family began to attend church and the youth leaders invited me right in to their home, into their lives, and into their hearts.
They showed me Christ's love. They attended athletic events, paid my way to church camp and other events again and again. They often took me out for pie and fries. Their home was always open, snacks and meals were available and laughter was abundant. They pursued me. My youth pastor's wife regularly sent encouraging notes in the mail. Hundreds of others also experienced this same love from them.
Their effort in ministry was tireless. (I'm sure I gave them a few gray hairs in the process). Never once did I feel like an inconvenience even though I was a needy girl. They cared enough to reach beyond the comfort of being empty-nesters to invest in the lives of young people. Their vacations weren't spent in Hawaii but rather at church camp with us.
Their sacrifice made an eternal impact. The love I experienced through them led me to accept the grandest invitation available to man. Because of their influence I surrendered my life to Christ and accepted His blood as payment for my sin. This is the most important RSVP I have ever made!
Here are a few examples of how your life can say "You're Invited, Please Come In."
- Look beyond your personal needs and interests
- View 'interuptions' as divine appointments
- Engage with others (bank, gas station, store, hair salon, kids events etc.)
- Reach out and make new friends
- Look for new faces at church
- Invite people to your home
- Ask others to join your small group (be inclusive)
- Respond when you are aware of a need in someone's life
- Slow down
- Ask God to give you His love and compassion for others.
Sometimes life change simply takes an invitation. By allowing others into our life we can show them Jesus. We can love them like Christ and embrace them as He would. When others experience the love of Christ through us, their hearts can soften. In turn, they become more receptive to Him and the truth of His Word. This can ultimately lead them to respond and accept the most gracious and beautiful invitation offered. Will your life deliver this invitation to another?
More importantly, have you accepted Christ's invitation?
You are lovingly invited
by the Creator of the Universe
Friday, June 17, 2011
This invitation includes
A radical life transformation:
Surrender your old life to gain new life
Depart 'goodness' for His grace
Accept His blood as payment for your sin
Acknowledge your need of His control in your life
Leave bondage and embrace freedom
Live empowered by the Holy Spirit!
Forgiveness, Fruitful Living and Eternal Life is available to all
Undoubtedly, our first mission is within the four walls of our home. Ask God to reveal who else He may want you to invite into your life.
Trust in God's ability to stretch you beyond your comfort zone in order to reach out to others as Christ would, then, join Him as He leads you.
What excuses do you use for not being an open invitation to others?
How does Christ example show you how important people should be? How does this motivate you to change?
What practical ways can your life say "welcome" to others?
Heart Changing Word:
Matthew 25:45 (NIV) 'He will reply, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me."
1 John 3:16 "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers."
Copyright 2011 by Hester Christensen. All rights reserved.