Jesus welcomed everybody and he made everybody feel welcome. Everybody. He didn’t reject anyone. He ate and drank with tax collectors and teachers of the law. He dined with prostitutes and Pharisees. Men and women. Rich and poor. Jew and Gentile. The powerful and the weak. Part of the huge scandal with Jesus is that, with him, everybody is welcome. No discrimination. No pre-judgment. He opened up his arms and said, “Come on! Everybody!”
And that’s not normal.
You’re only supposed to share meals and show hospitality to people just like you. Before you go to someone’s house or before you invite someone to your house, make sure they’re just like you. Check their voting record. Read their bumper stickers. Find out where their kids go to school.
Jesus refused. Everybody is welcome.
You realize Jesus was in a small group with a tree-hugging liberal tax collector and a right-wing tea-party Zealot? He hung out with poor fishermen and a couple of guys with horrible anger issues and a betrayer (I see Judas as that person in the small group who goes home every Sunday night and gets on Facebook: “You can’t believe what Thaddeus is going through!).
A temptation for us is to worry about who’s going to sit by us at church. Some of us won’t join a small group or commit to a Bible class because we’re worried: “Who am I going to wind up with in there?” There’s a temptation not to lead for that very reason: “I can’t control who’s going to show up.”
Instead of trying to control that, why not give it up to God?
“God, please bring people to our church I can minister to. Lord, please put people in our class you can reach with your love and hope through me. God, please put somebody next to me who needs me.”
And then no matter who sits next to you or who shows up in your class or small group, they were delivered there by God. That’s a person God brought to you for his purposes. It takes all the pressure off. God, this is your class. Lord, this is your church. When you pray that prayer and when you show up with that mind of Christ, everybody is welcome.