Monday, May 26, 2014

The Invitation

An extremely wealthy man of great esteem was throwing the most spectacular party this world has ever seen. He sent invitations to all of his friends, noting that the invitation card would need to be presented at the entry gate to his estate. A man showed up to this extravaganza without the invitation and was turned away. Indignant, he hurled obscenities at the servants and asked that they pass on his sentiments to the wealthy man for having such stringent rules. However, those that presented the invitation were allowed entrance and praised the wealthy man’s generosity.

Did the man turned away at the gate have a right to enter the estate or was it within the wealthy man’s right to accept only those who presented his invitation? Of course, the wealthy man had no obligation to provide open access to just anyone and everyone. So why was the indignant man so embittered? Apparently, he felt entitled to be at the party despite the fact that he disrespected the wealthy man’s terms for entrance. The entitlement mentality reflects an over-estimated opinion of self; it’s prideful. 

Many people feel the same sort of indignation at another exclusive invitation. John 14:6 is one of the most hated, controversial verses in Scripture. It says, in essence, that no one has access to God the Father except through Jesus. Many people decry the exclusivity of this condition and challenge why Jesus is necessary? They claim that a devout Hindu, Muslim or fill-in-the-blank-religious-person should have equal access. They claim it’s arrogant to think that Jesus is the only way to heaven.
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)
But the invitation of Jesus is both freely given and undeserved. No one can earn it. A “devout” Christian, Muslim, or any-religion is simply not good enough to entitle anyone access to an all-perfect God. It’s prideful to think that by following some set of rules we can become “good enough” to earn our way to heaven. Because despite all our striving to be “good”, we still fail. And that is not just failing at God’s perfect standards, we fail at the rules that we set for ourselves. How many have started life with an intent to be sexually pure, always truthful, anger-free, loving towards others, without greed, etc.? And how many have lived up to it? And because we can’t live with the dichotomy between our behavior and our moral standards, the standards are redefined to be more attainable, yet ever elusive: We fail to remain sexually pure, so we redefine sexual purity to actions performed with a loving intent… or that don’t hurt anyone else… or that we didn’t “think” would hurt others. Finally, we start justifying that maybe if I do more good than bad, it will be “good enough”.

The reality is that the invitation of Jesus is open to everyone that is willing to just accept God alone is God and that they are in need of a savior. Why wouldn’t a devout religious-anything welcome this news? No more striving; just gratefully accepting. To say that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life is a gracious invitation to anyone and everyone who is willing to present themselves with this Invitation as their right to enter heaven’s gates. 
He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:11-13)
Why would anyone turn down this exclusive invitation except out of pride? The Invitation challenges everyone who has strived to reach perfection on their own… to acknowledge their pride and their need for a Savior. The Invitation only excludes the ones who think themselves above the need for a Savior. He is the Way… we need to just walk with Him. He is the Truth… we need to live in truth and not denial. He is the Life… the only life is through this free gift of God’s Love demonstrated powerfully in the life and resurrection  of Jesus. The Invitation is for all to join in relationship with God the Father through Jesus. 

My only access through heaven's gate is this Invitation, stripped of any pretense of entitlement. Have you received your Invitation yet?

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