“Blessed by the Unblessed”
Getting to the Heart of Luke
August 11, 2019
When I first read this passage, it came off very selfish; very self-serving. Don’t invite the rich people you’re already friends with. Invite the poor so you can feel good about yourself. That’s not what Christ was meaning when He said this, though. He’s trying to talk to this man in the only way his host will understand. Jesus is coming to his hosts level and speaking his personal language. If Christ is mentioning “don’t invite rich neighbors or family or friends”, then this man is probably wealthy and materialistic to an extent. Jesus is explaining it in a way that only this guy will understand. How wonderful. He’s trying to drive a point home that he’s probably had to explain over and over again, but in all fairness, I often don’t get it right on the first try either. With that said, I see 4 points Jesus is trying to make with one block of scripture.
First, he’s talking to the individual. It seems very pointed at the host in almost a parental way. It’s very reminiscent of birthday party invitations. I’m sure we’ve all had our parents tell us we HAD to invite THAT person. “You’ve gotta invite your whole class, and YES, even Booger Bobby.” Christ is reminding us that we need to reach out beyond our comfort zones and our known social circles and befriend those whom others shun. I’m sure the host wasn’t doing this out of malice, but concern for his social standings and the well-being of his other guests. We’re quick to make excuses sometimes for our own benefit. “Oh, they wouldn’t like it here. I doubt they would even want to go to our church anyway. I’m sure they have other plans today.” Individually, we can make a difference in someone’s life by having them over for dinner or just by asking them out for coffee. By going out of our way to get to know someone else, we not only enrich their life but enrich our own as well. This is not only good advice for helping others feel loved, but also to help broaden our own horizons. American writer Neal Stephenson famously said, “The best way to know someone is to have a conversation with them.”
Now, as he’s oft to do, Jesus is also speaking about the church. Jesus is informing the whole through the example of the host. Churches can become cliquish very quickly. It’s understandable that we would want to find a group inside a much larger group and stick with them. There’s nothing wrong with making friends and sticking by each other. But, maybe it isn’t such a bad thing to include others outside of that circle. My favorite movie growing up was The Sandlot. It’s about a new kid trying to make friends. He finally gets the nerve to visit a local rundown ball field where a group of kids practice every day. He stands in the backfield hoping not to be noticed but mimics their every move. By chance, one boy hits a fly ball that almost hits the new kid. He tries to throw the ball to them but doesn’t know how and it only goes a couple of feet. They laugh and make fun of him until he runs away. Luckily, one of those boys reaches out to him and invites him back and teaches him how to play baseball. The new kid quickly becomes a staple member of the team and they get into many shenanigans. If the one hadn’t stuck his neck out for the new kid, he might have stayed in his room again another year or more. Jesus wants us to reach out to those that others are unwilling to. Sometimes, people come to church and don’t know how to “church” and that’s okay. I remember, when I was much younger, a visitor at church saying that they were about to give up the church hunt after the last church they visited, someone had come to them after service and said, “We just feel like you might be more comfortable going to a different church.” I will say that this is why my wife and I chose to become members of this church. We felt welcome and wanted and I’ve never seen any other church pour love into its community like this congregation does. We, as a whole, just have to stay on our toes and continue to make decisions that benefit others and not just us.
Now, I feel Christ was speaking to the individual and the church, but it also seems like Christ is pointing at himself with this. Jesus famously invited himself to Zacchaeus the tax collector’s house. Now, Zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he, but that’s not why he wasn’t getting invited over for tea by his neighbors. They hated him. He was taking their money to an emperor that despised them. But, Christ shows by example that we need to show love to those whom others hate. But beyond that, God gave a much greater gift to us all. God was above His people for so long and kept His own company, but then Jesus was born as human and dwelled among His creations. He came to spend time with us, to get to know us. Then, he gave his life for us. In this passage, Jesus says to invite the outcasts and they’ll never be able to repay you. He played the ultimate unrepayable card. How are we supposed to pay him back? He literally died for our sins?! We always tell our kids that we represent Christ on Earth. We’re little Jesus-es. So, we need to follow his example at all times and love the unlovable.
What I see most in this scripture is Jesus, without saying it, telling us to look at life through the outcast’s eyes. It’s such a relief when you start a new school or begin a new job and you don’t know anyone and you don’t know where to sit at lunch, but one person waves you over and asks you to sit with them. I’ve had people do that for me and I would give them anything they asked for in that moment. That’s just one awkward moment that will pass quickly. Some people aren’t so lucky. Not everyone is as lucky as you and I are to have found such a welcoming family to take us in. There are people who would die to be part of something like this but are too afraid to try or too afraid to get hurt again. Instead of waiting on them to ask, Christ says to reach out and invite them yourself. What a great thing, to be the reason someone else feels special.
Let Christ’s words resonate in your heart. Remember to reach out to someone you normally wouldn’t. It may just change their life, and it may just change yours.