ENCOUNTER: Read Romans 8:14-17
I find it interesting that Jesus' first words to people were not a fierce call out compelling people to repent of the kingdom of God is near. John the Baptist had that ministry and it was pretty successful until he got his head cut off. When you read through the Gospels, Jesus does have some stern words for the self-righteous but does seem to have an entirely different approach to the alienated and disenfranchised.
I would argue that people in our context have much more in common with the alienated than with the rebellious sinners or self-righteous. And if that is true, we can look and see how Jesus engages people, and when he does, it is rarely with confronting language, or finger-pointing, or even rebuke. Rather, Jesus simply invites:
"Come and see . . . "
"Come and follow . . . "
"Come to me . . . "
"Come and drink . . . "
"Come and eat . . . "
It is helpful to realize that the people who live in our context are more often than not, lonely and alienated. They are not hopeless, broken, or sinful. (We must make sure that we don't put our world-view or our experiences on theirs.) Most of those words make no sense to them. They are who they are. They are unaware that there is even a more whole version of themselves, and because most of them are a-moral, sin is a foreign concept and therefore you can't rebel against a standard you don't even hold true to.
However, I think there is some bad news in their life that has corresponding good news. The post-modern, post-Christian people we work with are wrestling with identity, purpose, and mostly belonging. Family structures are in flux, friendships are in flux, there is a shadow of belonging through social media, but all in all, I have found that many people simply feel lonely, left out, and alienated.
THERE IS GOOD NEWS!
The good news is that Jesus comes to invite everybody to the great banquet. Jesus is not about the insider's clique, or for those who have their life all figured out. Jesus doesn't drop the hammer on these lost an alienated people, but rather simply invites them. Invites them to the family. And when they accept this invitation, their identity fundamentally changes and they are now given a seat of honor in the family of God. And with this acceptance, they are also given purpose in the family business of expanding the kingdom of God.
The pictures of salvation used to be a courtroom with the rebellious sinner being forgiven their debt and made righteous. Then it transitioned to broken people being healed through the transforming power of Jesus. I would argue that the picture that is most relevant to our students is now one of adoption. Inviting an alienated and lost generation into the Family of God. May adoption be our paradigm and may we cast our invitations far and wide!
The gospel of Jesus Christ is good news for our context. Jesus looked at his people not with angst or frustration, not guilt or shame. Rather he looked upon them with compassion as sheep without a shepherd, orphans without a Father. Jesus does not lay down the gauntlet but rather invites. Let us take on the mantle of Jesus and invite our friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers to the great banquet, into the family of God, and to grow in purpose as we together work in the family business.
BE REFLECTIVE: Where has God planted you? List out 3-5 people that you live life with and who do not know God yet. How can you invest in those friendships and consider ways to deepen your love and care for them.
BE A BLESSING: Recognize that when we gather as a church we are putting on a "Thanksgiving" meal. How can we be our best versions of ourselves? Be most authentic, kind, generous, fascinated, and hope-filled? Consider ways for you and the people you are connected here at church to grow in your understanding and living out your role as hosts, so others will not only learn about but also experience the kingdom of God.
BE TOGETHER: Where two or more are gathered, Jesus promises to be in their midsts. Let us see evngilism as a team sport. Who can you invite in to partner with you to pray with you and to help establish culture with as you leave the 99 and run after the 1 that God has put in your life?