I come from a small family. I have one sister and no cousins. Therefore, I did not grow up going to large family reunions. By contrast, my husband has seventeen aunts and uncles and countless cousins. Family reunions in his family are loud and joyous affairs.
My introduction to this dynamic came a few months after we were engaged. His grandparents were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, and I was graciously invited to attend the celebration. There was lots of food, family, friends, and stories shared from the past. Near the end of the evening, one particular story began to unfold.
My husband’s grandparents were asked to stand on the stage, as a narrator began to tell the story of their life together. As they reached the part of their marriage story where they had children together, all of their sons and daughters joined them on the stage. Then, their children got married, so all of the spouses joined them on the stage. Then, they had grandchildren and all of the grandchildren joined them on the stage. At this point, there were probably more people on the stage than there were left in the audience.
The narrator announced that their family motto was: “There’s always room for one more.” At this point, they announced our engagement and asked me to also join the family on the stage. It was a warm, welcoming feeling to be included in such a legacy story. It feels good to be welcomed into a family.
There’s always room for one more. This phrase signifies inclusion. It signifies welcome. It signifies an open door. As far as family mottos go, this is a fantastic one. Now, let’s imagine: What if this was not just a family motto, but the message of the church? What if this was the message of our small groups or Bible studies?
Jesus spent his life ministering to and teaching a group of rag-tag disciples. He seemed to collect followers wherever he went. He didn’t seem to be bothered by them. In fact, it seemed he went out of his way to find them. Jesus didn’t even send them away when they ran out of food (Matthew 14). His disciples were afraid at the lack of provision and began to worry. They wondered, will there be enough? The self-preservation instinct will always get in the way of inviting new people in. Jesus, however, took the food that was, and multiplied it, providing enough for everyone. No one was hungry and no one was sent away.
As Christ followers, we are the light of the world and a city on a hill (Matthew 5:14). It’s awfully hard to hide light on a hilltop. It serves as an advertisement to everyone for miles: there’s provision here.
At this moment in history our American culture is divided and fragmented. I wish I could say that it didn’t seem to be affecting the Christians, but it does. Social media is a war zone of differing opinions. Instead of spreading a table for everyone, often we’re guilty of spreading tables for only those who share our likeness or values.
How, as the family of Christ, can we send out the banner: there’s always room for one more? This table isn’t closed. It isn’t ugly, divisive, or hypocritical. It’s where Life and Peace can be found. All are welcome here. We are brothers. We are sisters. We are sons and daughters of the King. Come, join us!
During this season of fear and anger, let us remember: the Kingdom of God is alive and well. The Holy Spirit is in the business of bringing new people to the table. Let us join arms as a family and be ready to welcome them with open arms.
Pause: Take a deep belly breath and slowly exhale. When you’re ready, read through the above verse a few times. What stands out to you about this verse?
Renew: Take a minute to evaluate your own life. In what ways and by what people have you been made to feel welcome? How did this affect you? In what ways and at what times do you try to make others feel welcome?
Next: As we collectively navigate a pandemic and divisive election, how can we go about treating each other with honor and provide welcome to new believers? What could that look like in our churches? What could that look like in your life?
May we remember the joy of being welcomed into the family of God and share that joy with others.
Pause, Renew, Next!