It’s been a hard week to be an evangelical.
Really, it’s been a hard year. It’s hard to see so many churches in America aligning themselves politically with discrimination, homophobia, sexism, and fear.
It breaks my heart that the loudest, and sometimes the only, voices speaking from the evangelical community are not speaking the words of Jesus. Because let’s be clear- the Jesus I trust and worship would call the firing of 15,000 transgender people from the military transphobia and discrimination, and he would not stand for it.
The Jesus I love would welcome immigrants and refugees, not write bans and build walls.
The Jesus I know gave women freedom and power and never shamed, harassed, or assaulted them.
But if I consider myself an evangelical and I am not speaking out, then I am equally as culpable as those that I blame for their silence.
So here are some words from that Jesus, the one I know, with a bit of a modern spin. The original parable can be found in Luke 14 and Matthew 22, if you’d prefer to read it there. But know this: no matter where you read it, the kingdom of heaven is made up of none of the people who think they’ve earned their place there, and all of the people you’d least expect.
This, then, is how the kingdom of heaven will be:
There once was a father preparing to throw a wedding for his daughter. The day had been set, the save the dates mailed, invitations addressed and set out. He’d spent an already extravagant amount of money to reserve a venue, caterer, photographer, band, linens, florists, and every other detail you can possibly imagine. Everything was coming together for this to be a special and beautiful day.
That is, until the RSVPs started coming in. Friends, family, fellow church members, coworkers- it seemed everyone had sent their regrets. No one could come to the wedding, and he’d already spent all this money, all this time preparing to celebrate his beautiful and beloved daughter! Embarrassed, he began making phone calls, assuring guests of the quality of food and music and drinks that would be at the wedding. They refused to even return his calls.
Finally, it was the day of the wedding. The father, at the end of his rope, went out into the city in search of someone, anyone to invite to the wedding. He found a homeless couple sleeping under the shade of a park bench and gently woke them. “Would you like to come to a wedding today?” he cautiously asked. “We will have food and wine and dancing, and I can even give you clothes to wear so that you’ll fit right in.” The couple exchanged a confused look and began to refuse, but the father continued to plead until they were compelled to agree, and followed along behind the man.
He continued through the streets, meeting a falafel cart owner and his three small children, several prostitutes limping home, a few single mothers hurriedly grabbing diapers from a 24 hour convenience store, and a large family of what appeared to be newly arrived immigrants or perhaps tourists, but their English was limited enough that no one could quite tell. The father compelled each of them to come along to the wedding.
By this time, it was getting late and he knew he still needed more guests. He came upon a group of LGBTQ people protesting the new military policy on transgender people. He welcomed them to the wedding, and not wanting to miss a lavish party, they joined the now sizeable group behind the father.
Counter to this group of protesters was another group from a local religious community, protesting the protest. The father approached them and invited them to the wedding as well. They looked critically at the ragtag group behind him and cautiously accepted, but did not abandon their picketing, asking what time they would need to show up. The father passed along the invitation, shrugged, and left them where they were.
By now it really was time to be getting ready for the wedding, so the father took his guests to the mall and gave them his credit card to use. “Get yourselves something you’ll feel special in,” he commanded, “because we want this to be a celebration to remember! When you’re ready, join me at the venue, I need to go get myself ready as well.”
With that, he left them to go change and check on his daughter.
The wedding began without a hitch. The guests looked impeccable in brightly colored new clothes and jewelry, and the father beamed with pride as the doors opened to reveal his daughter and he began to walk her down the aisle. Just as the first few notes of the processional played, however, he heard the doors behind them open and a loud group come bursting through them. It was the religious group, still holding their picket signs, still in their dirty clothes and nearly 30 minutes late. The father turned swiftly and did not mince words as he asked them to leave.
“I invited you here and provided all you could need, but you cannot simply come into this wedding on your own terms. You are no more deserving of this invitation than any other guest in this room, and yet you think you have earned the right to walk in late, dirty, and full of hate. You will have no part in this celebration today. Perhaps you are surprised by who I have welcomed here in your stead. Perhaps you should have been welcoming them too.”
And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.
And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’