Have you every known someone who was one of those “my way or the highway” kind of people. I don’t mean it as a judgment but an observation. In the Navy I had the “privilege” of working for some that were very much the “my way or the highway” leaders. You can get away with that in the military. I had one Commanding Officer who kept me up late at night explaining to me the importance of his rank. He would say stuff like “don’t these Lieutenants know who I am? I am a Commander in the United States Navy so they should respect the rank.” They actually all did respect the rank just not the person. Let’s just say that for this guy the power of the position was more important than the purpose of the position. I bet you have met someone like that. You know… when you are at a meeting and there is a great idea suggested by one of the team members. Then Johnny Important rejects the idea as stupid to only suggest the same thing a few minutes later as his greatest epiphany every. OK, maybe I’m being a little harsh but I think you get the idea.
Now imagine standing in front of God and saying “I think you have made a mistake.” I can’t, but some (or many) will do that very thing. You have to know that Heaven and Hell are in the presence of God. They are the place where God is because everyplace is the place where God is. Heaven and Hell are the state of the individual in the presence of the Love and acceptance and inclusion and forgiveness and grace and mercy and unconditional assurance. God wants His kids to know Him and be a participant in His family. He made us for that purpose. He made the universe for that purpose. He sent Jesus for that purpose. He birthed mankind in the garden as Adam for that purpose. He became a man for that purpose. He joined mankind for that purpose. I think God is really really serious about including His kids in His family circle, don’t you? Oh yeah, the other conversation with God I don’t expect to happen is “wow God I overestimated your goodness.” Really?!?!
Jesus showed us this very situation in the parables. Want to see?
You have probably heard the parable of the wedding feast. The parable in its entirety is found in Matthew 22:1-14. There is a great feast for a son’s wedding. The original invitations are rejected and the “unworthy” guests actually killed some of the servants in protest. I guess they didn’t want to come. The father sends out the servants to find more people to invite including all the “good and bad” people. He is inviting everyone that will listen. That sounds really inclusive to me. There are many opinions about interpretation up to this point. Mine is simple. The Kingdom is like a great celebration and everyone is invited. There are some that are just like the older brother in the parable of the prodigal. The older brother didn’t want to come in. Instead he stood outside and complained. These people who reject the wedding feast go so far as to react violently in opposition to an open invitation. “My way or the highway “comes to mind.
Now the fun part.
There is one guy who is “discovered” in the party not wearing a wedding garment. In this tradition the groom would give everyone a wedding garment. You would come as you are and expect to receive a garment. It was intended to be a “zero stress” activity so that people weren’t worried about what to wear. This way they could freely participate in the party itself. It was supposed to be a great celebration that was for free, no obligation, no conditions…just one big blow-out. So this guy, still wearing his street clothes, must have rejected the garment or even taken it off once he got inside. Can you imagine the “I refuse to accept your generosity” mindset? Not only has he rejected the free gift, he is reclining with the guests. What is he doing I wonder? Is talking about the awesome host or the fabulous food or the amazing generosity or is he a troublemaker? Don’t you suppose that everyone else is having a good time and just maybe this guy is trying to interject his opinion? Here are the verses:
Matt 22:11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.” (ESV)
When confronted, the party-pooper is speechless. I can’t imagine a more appropriate response to the generosity and mercy and grace of the King. This guy has been “found out.” Now he doesn’t know what to say. Next they bind his hands and feet and take him out. It is easy to let our good-bad thinker imagine this guy wanting to stay and they bind him to keep him from resisting the expulsion. Imagine for a moment that if he really wanted to participate in the free party then he would have accepted the conditions of the free party namely he accepts the free garment? He isn’t ready for the party. He doesn’t know how to receive and give up his selfish motivations. Is it possible that he is bound to keep from hurting others? Is it possible that this guy could care less about the party and the host but would love to disrupt the whole thing? Just a thought.
OK now I’ve finally sucked you into the “trap.” The last verse is the one that many use in religion to put fear into people’s lives. The “many” can mean “a great multitude.” In this story there were many invited that refused outright. There were many more that were invited and didn’t even know about the party. There were many invited that were both good and bad. You do the math. Looks pretty inclusive to me. Even the “I don’t want to wear your stupid robe” guy was invited.
This last word “chosen” is the really fun one. Let me suggest that it doesn’t mean “picked” like “picking” a baseball team on the playground. The word is eklektos. In the Septuagint it is often used to describe “quality” or “sufficiency.” In Pharaoh’s dream there were fat cows and skinny cows. The “fat” cows were eklektos cows. They were sufficient for their purpose. They were ready for their purpose. In another passage the best chariots and most physically qualified warriors were eklektos chariots and warriors. The purity of stuff was the eklektos of stuff. The word is describing quality or preparedness. The roots of the word trace back to “out of agreement” or “putting an argument to rest.” The word suggest rest or comfort or “ready for the task” or “fit for the task.” Are you beginning to see something different from what you maybe saw before?
This same word is used to describe the “chosen” angels and how Jesus is the “chosen” of God. Did God pick Jesus and the Angels out of a lineup? That doesn’t fit, right? Or were they “fit for the task” and “ready for the assignment?” Can you see it?
Matt 22:14 The invitation is open to all but not everyone accepts and few are actually up to the task (LLT)
I just ask that you use your mind of Christ. What does Jesus show you?
Every parable about judgment begins with inclusion. Go and check it out for yourself. In each one there is the moment of truth. Some will reject the invitation. Some will want their own stubborn and selfish terms. Some will insist on their version of fairness. Some can’t let the offenses go. Some are like goats butting everyone else. It will be Hell for those who, in the presence of Love, just can’t receive His love. The burning and intense love of God for His children will be refreshing and refining and liberating for some and a torturous fire of stubborn independence for others. The cat and the bath. Claws and teeth. It will be darkness to the love and light and mercy and grace and unconditional acceptance of our divine family. It will bring weeping and teeth grinding in defiance to pure grace. They just won’t “let it go.”
We have to put the ledger down. We have to “let it go Indy.” We are not in some cosmic test to see if we get it right or know the right stuff or do the right things. We are in a reconciled cosmos that Jesus has already redeemed and justified and is now glorifying. We get to be on the invite list and go to the party. Can we give up our insistence on “our way or the highway.” In the end “let go and let God” really does apply. My effort and my opinion and my judgment are the very chains that Jesus sets me free from. In our unearthly assurance as His children, we can come alive to our true humanity in Jesus. We look into the mirror of our genesis in Jesus and we see our adoption and inclusion in His sonship. It is a glorious thing to know as we are known and see as we are seen. Our glory to glory moments are the revelation of our adoption. We cry Abba Father and Jesus responds with a resounding YES as the Holy Spirit cheers in agreement. We move from faith to faith as we grow in our faith of His faithfulness. He is that good. Are you up to the task?