Invited and Accepted
It is said of the early disciples that they "put away all differences, all desire for supremacy, and came close together in Christian fellowship drawing nearer and nearer to God." And you can see that, when you read Acts about how "All the believers were together and had everything in common."(Acts 2:44; EGW).
What difference does unity make in the church? What does acceptance feel like to a believer, and what does love and acceptance feel like to someone outside the church that we are trying to reach?
Ellen White writes that the love that binds heart to heart, the warmth of true friendship, is a foretaste of the joys of heaven. If God truly is a relational God, who loves others and loves us and we were created to be creatures of this love, then we will only receive full fulfillment by participating in the "body of believers" or the "fellowship of the saints".
I want you to imagine getting an invitation to be a part of a wedding banquet for one of your best friends. The whole night is like a great romance movie- bridal clothes, nice table talk and manners, delicious food. But the best part, is how many people you know there. The whole night is full of laughter, jokes, compliments, affirmation, and encouragement. You feel a part of something bigger than yourself. And it is a celebration of not only the wedding bride and groom - but of the family and relationship that everyone has together.
And in theory, I believe that the church could be so much more powerful and effective in witnessing and uplifting believers, if it felt more like a banquet, and less like a competition.
More like a choir, then a fashion show.
More like a hospital for the sick, where everyone cared about each other's burdens- then a snob get-together where everyone played pretend.
Because, friends church is our opportunity to come together to worship God the living King. And as we worship God, our hearts should be so full of His love and acceptance for us, that we should love to love His children. We should love each other, because as 1 John says "God is love and whoever does not love does not love God." And we praise God, when we are kind and edifying to each other.
And friends, we need church. We need a body, we need a family. For we need each other's support and prayers, to live better lives for Christ. And individually, we all need each other to offer that community, authenticity, and honesty.
If we don't feel a part of the church, we won't work in it, talk about it, and invite others to it. We have to feel a part of the church ourselves- loved and accepted- in order to want to bring other in.
Psalm 23:5 "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies, you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows." And church should be a place where we can be sharing God's blessing and work in our lives to inspire others' around us. Church should be a place where the anointing of God's children can take place, where the water from the well of life is freely given to restore those in need.
And I think inside- we all want that community from church. We all want the honesty and the end of pretending. We all want to be cared for, we want to be talked kindly too, and we want to be a part. So we have to accept the responsibility of taking ownership in making church like that for ourselves and for others.
Lysa TerKeurst, in her book Uninvited, reminds us to accept our duty to live confidently as Christ's child and to dwell in a community. It can be possible to unknowingly disqualify ourselves from that community by choosing to believe the lies Satan throws at us by comparing our lives to others, judging, or segregation.
In the church and out of the church, our intimacy with God will directly affect our intimacy with other people. Our views of our self will limit how much love we can give and receive from others. When we stop believing that we are worth the investment, we will stop investing in others. We can't give something we don't have-- so we can't promote true confidence, faith, and acceptance without accepting ourselves first and accepting Christ's love for us.
Once we learn that our identity is secure in God-- we can securely give to others- without expecting something back in return and we can truly love others better. Lysa writes"Live from the abundant place that you are loved and you won't find yourself begging other people for scraps of love" (Uninvited).
So as an individual, do I accept my role in making the church more beautiful? Do I choose to be accepting and more loving? As I prepare for the banquet feast and celebration with God's people, I can invite others to come with me.
As I arrive at the feast, I can talk and listen to others, give hugs, and even be willing to serve by washing people's feet. And as I participate in true self-giving communion, I will experience the blessing of fellowship and knowing God's heart of community and giving.
I think Christ is constantly offering us the invitation to come and dwell with Him, to come and be accepted. And as we accept his invitation, he reminds us to share it and be blessed. To love and care and invite, as we have been. And to realize that His kingdom is a big, inclusive Kingdom- that it's full of so many people we may not even think- but it's a place where community, family, and friends can dwell together.