I was in Rohan the other week when I took my daughters to fly out to boarding school. On my way back home my friend and I stopped in Edoras to encourage some of the local believers there. They are having a pretty rough time these days as the king in Rohan is outlawing all things religious. It is now illegal to preach in Rohan. I asked them what the Government's definition of preaching was. They said that anytime, anywhere you speak to people- even in your own home- with a Bible open in front of you and non-believers are present then you are preaching. The fines are astronomical and several have had trouble with this fun law already. But that was not what was discouraging the leaders there. What was really getting to them was the fact that many local believers were beginning to grow weary of the struggle. They were growing cold and indifferent toward God and other believers. One of the leaders asked me if he should continue to work with one of his church members who seemed to have drifted away. This person was still coming to meetings but was not bearing any fruit and seemed to be permanently immature in his faith. Should he give up on such a person and work with others who would bear more fruit?
I replied that this was a common problem everywhere in the world today and that many people had varied opinions on this. Many people quote 2 Tim. 2:2 believing that we should focus our time on giving the message to 'faithful people who will be able to teach others as well.' This is of course, true but looking to Jesus as our model I like to tell the story of the Prodigal Son. What does this story have to do with who we work with? I believe this story is critical in understanding what a 'godly' attitude towards others is regardless of who the other person is.
As you recall the story found in Luke 15 there is a man with two sons. The second son, the 'Prodigal', leaves the father to find pleasure and satisfaction in the world. The first son stays but toward the end of the story we discover that in his heart he too has left his father's house. He stayed, but began to think of himself as a servant and not a son. He was bitter, jealous, and ungrateful. When the younger son repents and returns the father receives him and invites him into a great banquet. When the older son hears of this he is enraged but the father pleads with the older son and invites him into the banquet as well. You have doubtless heard many fine sermons on this parable and indeed there is much that can be gleaned from this story. But I will focus on just this; The younger son's character was that of a man who looks for pleasure in worldly things, the older son's character was bitter and thankless, but the father's character was constantly inviting in. I see myself in all three and indeed I have been all three characters. I have and continue to seek pleasure in the world far too often. I have been the thankless older brother who is ungrateful and jealous. And, even I, am learning to become like the father. In fact, all children should grow up. We begin like the older or younger sons- usually a combination of both- but we must grow up. When we do we invite others in. It is in the heart and nature of our Great Heavenly Father that he invites us to join him. We must become like this if we are truly followers of His Son.
Jesus was constantly inviting others to join him. We remember when He invited the little children to come to Him and we smile thinking that is how He thinks of us. But remember that in the parable the father represented God, the Prodigal represented the outcasts and sinners, but the older son represented the Pharisees and the religious of Jesus' day. Yet, in the story he too was invited to the banquet. We are not told if he went in, but even he was invited. I will put it to you that in everything Jesus said and did, even when dealing harshly with His enemies He was inviting them in. He never casts anyone out who came to Him. He told them the truth. He did not sugar coat what He said with flattering speech but He was always inviting.
We must be also. I counseled the young leader not to cast out anyone but to speak the truth clearly- always inviting. Many will leave our ranks in the end. The love of many will grow cold. We must not pander to them or cheapen the Gospel for them in any way. Jesus never chased anyone down nor did He beg others to follow Him. But we can and we must speak the truth in a way that invites them into relationship with us and our Father. They too are welcome at the banqueting table. There is room. Be like the father today, grow up and invite them in.