For some reason, I have always loved the story of the wedding banquet in the Bible. If you are like me, you probably looked at the people that rejected the initial invitation to the glorious banquet in the wrong way. I think that secretly, we view them as bunch of vaudeville villains, twirling their mustaches and laughing manically at the silly King. They had to be bad people to turn their back on their own ruler, right?
But the truth of the matter is – they were the first people that the King wanted to come. They were the insiders, the cool kids, the celebrities, the A-listers, and the desirable people of his kingdom. It was the who’s who of that small town’s world.
So that means that the people that actually came to the banquet were those out on the streets, probably still working hard at low paying jobs or even jobless and homeless. Communities were much smaller back then, so all of the good, upstanding, normal people in the city were probably the first ones invited. Those that were left over were not the ones that you see sitting in most churches on Sunday mornings.
Lately there has been considerable arguing over several types of people that the good, upstanding evangelical church people do not want invited to the banquet – liberal Christians, feminist Christians, gay Christians, trans-gender Christians, strong intelligent female Christian leaders, intellectual scientist Christians, etc. These people have traditionally not been the first ones invited to anything that we do as a Church – and many would list them as ones that will be booted out of the wedding banquet en masse.
But the message of the Kingdom of God is different, if you really dig into it. Anyone at any time can worship God, can talk to God, can follow God, can pray to God and be heard by God. Because nothing can separate us from His love.
The problem is, many people get the parable of the banquet all backwards. They want to set up a security check point around the perimeter to make sure that no sinners get in to the banquet hall. Or they want to police the table and kick out anyone that looks like they don’t belong.
Jesus just said to go and bring them in. No security check points – anyone that wants in is let in. Then he said that He would be the one to tell those that didn’t belong to leave. Ever notice that it was only one out of hundreds?
That is not universalism – the parable shows that we are to go out and compel people to come in… but people obviously still have to make that choice to come in. There are still many on the outside even in this parable.
But out of those that chose to come in, only a small fraction of a percent were not allowed to stay. So why do we kick out a much higher percentage (at least in our personal re-imaginings of the banquet scene)?
I think many people view the banquet hall as a quiet place with just a few people present. Every once and a while, someone will make some hard-line theological rant about those on the outside, and everyone else will just shout “here, here!” and agree because someone on the inside said something, not necessarily because they agree with it or even know if what was said is actually correct or not.
But do you know what the real banquet will probably be like? Loud, a bit rowdy, and one big party where a wide range of viewpoints are welcomed. Probably a bunch of weird people doing socially awkward things and somehow not bothered by what the person next to them is doing differently. They are just all happy to be there – and the fact that the person next to them is there also is all the proof they need to get along with them.