For our recent Champions Church Christmas Carols event, we were encouraged to invite as many “non-churched” people as we could. The church had put together 10,000 beautiful boxes, including chocolates and an invitation to the service.
Like years gone by, the event was guaranteed to be a true success and blessing to the community – food trucks, Santa’s grotto, real reindeers, and a stunning carols service. I personally invited about nine people…And you know how many of them turned up? Zero! Yep, zero! I felt disappointed and disheartened. All this effort that the church put in, all the effort I put in to extend the invite…and then for no one to accept my invitation? It was a little frustrating hearing their excuses, especially knowing how much they would have loved it! It triggered the same feelings in me that I had when I was seven years old and I was brave enough to take an invite to church (that I had made in Kid’s Church) to my neighbours. I put the invite in their letterbox and watched from my window for their reaction. I saw them open the letterbox, take the invite, laugh, and throw it to the ground! Talk about rejection!
Jesus himself extended many invites in his lifetime, and many were rejected! Yes, sometimes people reject good things! Jesus was at a dinner party when one of the guests said to him, ‘Someday God will have a kingdom feast, and how happy and privileged will be the ones who get to share in that joy!’. Jesus replied witha parable about rejection:
‘There was a man who invited many to join him in a great feast. When the day for the feast arrived, the host instructed his servant to notify all the invited guests…but one by one they all made excuses’. The servant reported back to the master and the master insisted that the servant go back out into the city and invite everyone that he could find. The servant did so and came back saying that there was still room for more! So the master told him to go out AGAIN and ‘urgently insist that they come in and enjoy the feast so that the house will be full’. Jesus ends the allegory with this statement, ‘I say to you all, the one who receives an invitation to feast with me and makes excuses will never enjoy my banquet.’ (Luke 14: 15-24).
I believe Jesus told this story as an encouragement that even the greatest invitation of all – an invitation to the Kingdom of God, will be rejected by some. When the servant came back a second time saying that there is still space for more at the party, the master didn’t say, “Well, I guess this is the third invite we have sent out now, let’s give up”. NO! He told the servant to bounce back, brush off the rejection and go and ask more!
We feel bad when we are rejected, how much more so does God feel rejected? Think of his broken heart! I recall the verses at the beginning of John:
‘He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received 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).
Yet the mercy and grace of God remains. His invitation is always there.
This Christmas as we extend invitations to services, dinners, friendships, they may be rejected, but don’t feel disheartened. Don’t give up. God himself was rejected. Go out again, and again, and again. It isn’t always our job to push people over the salvation line, it is simply to sow a seed, and give them that invitation.
A daily devotion for a better way of living.