One place where everyone is welcome

Beth Marshall

The ‘60s and ‘70s were a pretty uncomplicated time to grow up. With no iPhone or Android conversations, the only decision was if the rotary phone would be black, white or for edgiest families, red. And at mealtime, the only option for kids was, “Take it or leave it.” Church decisions weren’t complicated either. For the most part, you attended church close to where you lived, with people who looked, dressed and thought like you.

I remember the day one of my heroes, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was leading an event in Atlanta, GA. People were coming from across the country to attend. Our church was asked if families would open their homes for out-of-town guests to stay. Sadly, the resounding answer was no. That was the day my parents decided to take their five children and leave the church.

How Far Have We Really Come?

A few days before Christmas, a gentleman walked into an Anderson restaurant. I got a feeling he wasn’t from around here. Besides the fact that he had on a dress and makeup, his long hair was the color of a ripe watermelon.

As a fellow fan of creative hair color it was easy to strike up a conversation. I mentioned that his hair was amazing, and asked what the shade was called. He smiled proudly and answered, “Thank you so much. It’s magenta.”

He went on to tell me he was visiting a friend in town, so I invited them to a NewSpring Christmas service. Suddenly, his playful expression turned solemn with his response.

“Thanks, but churches usually don’t like people like me.”

When it comes to choosing who is invited into the family of Christ, it’s not up to us. Everyone is welcome.   

I told him how very sorry I was for whoever had made him feel that way. I tried my hardest to assure him we would be honored for him to come to our church. I wonder how long he’s felt like he’s not good enough for church.

Who Belongs?

Sadly, these stories aren’t isolated incidents. Religious communities have struggled with an insider/outsider mentality for a long time, but that’s not the way Jesus looks at any of us.

Instead of spending lots of time with religious people, Jesus hung out with tax collectors and sinners. Matthew 9:10-13 explains, “It’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.”

When it comes to choosing who is invited into the family of Christ, it’s not up to us. Everyone is welcome.   

Jesus saw us as worthy of welcome before we wanted anything to do with Him (Romans 5:8).

Our job is not to draw distinctions between ourselves and the people we think are unlikely recipients of grace. Our job is to recognize that Jesus is the defining factor for any of “us” or “them” (Colossians 3:11, Galatians 3:28). He is the only reason we can all belong.

An Extended Invitation

A single mom was new to town, and before long she and her family had received several invitations to church. For some reason she had declined them all. When I invited her to come to an Easter service, she told me she didn’t think her children would be welcome. When I asked why, she responded, “because they are biracial.” Lord, help us.

Thankfully, she and her precious children did come, and the kids couldn’t wait to come back to KidSpring! Their family has been attending ever since, and the most amazing text message came a few weeks ago: she had just invited Jesus into her life and was planning to be baptized.

Lord, thank you. No matter what size, shape or color—even magenta—we are all invited.

If you know someone whose life seems miles away from yours, would you invite them in? How about today?  

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