Two Realizations That Help Christian Unity

In Luke 14 Jesus tells the parable of an influential man who throws a dinner party. He sends out the invite to all the choice people, the in-crowd. As the RSVP’s come back he gets nothing but excuses…One guy says he just bought a field and wants to go look at it. Pretty lame…don’t you think he has already seen the field and don’t you think it will look pretty much the same next week? Another guy says he just got married and can’t make it…wise fella right there…still another guy says he just bought some oxen and wants to try them out. You know people couldn’t care less about you if they don’t come because they are test driving their oxen. Oldest excuse in the books. None of the people you might have thought would have been first in line come to the banquet.

So what does the man do? He sends out a second invitation, “‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’” Bring them in. Bring in anyone who will come! The servant goes out and brings in all who are willing. There is still room at the banquet. So the man sends out a third invitation, “‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.”

Why does God fill his banquet with such a motley crew, such a rag-tag bunch of unworthy people? Not only does he invite them…he orders his servant to compel these people to come to the banquet. This is a big deal. These people have nothing to offer the man. They won’t increase his status or make him look good. When you look at the room and see who is there you can’t help but realize the man who is running the banquet is full of grace and compassion. The shocking thing is this, these people are you and me. We are the ones who don’t deserve to be at the banquet. We are the spiritually crippled and lame and poor and blind. We have been given a seat at God’s banquet table. We have gone from the margins to the inner circle.

So what are the two realizations that help develop Christian unity?

Realization #1 – None of us deserve to be Christians. That should humble us and bring us to our knees. So much disunity springs out of a since of spiritual entitlement and arrogance. The truth is, none of us deserve any of it. Yet God, in his infinite mercy is the one who brings us together.

Realization #2 – When you really understand you have been saved by God’s grace, it should make us graceful toward others. Grace is a key ingredient to unity. Arrogance and pride magnify mistakes and differences. Grace helps us iron over differences and mistakes in healthy ways. So much disunity comes from having an ungraceful attitude. Being ungraceful and ungrateful leads to unforgiveness that often leads to unending, bitter disputes that tear brothers and sisters in Christ apart.

Try this: The next time you are feeling disunity with another Christian picture you and that other person as blind, crippled beggars eating next to each other at God’s banquet and see what is left that is still worthy enough to tear your relationship apart. Not too many things will pass that test.

11 Responses to Two Realizations That Help Christian Unity

  1. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes and loving the phrase “You know people couldn’t care less about you if they don’t come because they are test driving their oxen.” :)

  2. Paul Smith says:

    Matt, I appreciate your thoughts. A couple of thoughts/questions: I have always wondered about this text in Luke 14 and the quasi-parallel passage in Matthew 22:1-14. There are some similarities, and some distinct differences. The unique facet I wanted to point out is in Matthew 22, and that is when the king arrives to look at the guests he notices one who does not have a wedding garment (in Luke there is no reference to a wedding, just a banquet). The impolite guest is then “cast into outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.”

    I don’t want to totally negate what you wrote, because I think you have pointed out something very valuable. However (to play the devil’s advocate) – acceptance of the invitation (as per Matthew) demands a certain proper response, not simply showing up for the event.

    So my question – does the quasi-parallel passage in Matthew temper the discussion about unity at all? I agree we are all given the same invitation completely in disregard to our merit (and Luke adds the phrase “compel them to come.”) But, that being understood, must we then disregard the fact that we are to come in appropriate submission to the nature of the feast? Matthew concludes with the phrase, “Many are called, but few are chosen.”

    Just thinking out loud here…

    Paul

    • What do you feel are the “proper garments”?

      • mattdabbs says:

        Rev 7:14 – robes washed in the blood of the Lamb. A complete act of grace that we can even be clothed in that.

        • Agreed, but then what is the banquet that people can get into without the proper garments? Sounds like the church, and folks that don’t fit get tossed out when the king shows up.

        • mattdabbs says:

          Will respond in more depth when I have more time but I can assure you this is not about dressing right for Sunday church!

          Sent from my iPhone

    • mattdabbs says:

      The parable itself demonstrates the possibility of proper and improper responses to the invitation. You have to try to make the point the parable itself is trying to make. In Luke 14, the focus is not on the specifics of the response. It is on the unexpected nature of the invitation. To get the broader context, read verses of Luke 14 leading up to this.

  3. Paul Smith says:

    I understand that the parable is definitely not about “dressing right for church.” I’m not even sure the two parables are completely parallel. I’m just voicing a concern I have had about the two texts (particularly the Matthean text) that clearly does place a certain responsibility upon the invited – many invited, few chosen. Many are indeed invited, and according to Matthew, may even show up for the wedding – but not everyone “in” gets to stay “in.” I am expanding the conversation here because I think this is a very important question.

    • mattdabbs says:

      Changes in the Synoptics of parallel passages are definitely there to make a specific point. I will look at it more later tonight. Have you looked at the context of that passage in Matthew to see if that sheds light on why Matthew included that?

      • Paul Smith says:

        Hi Matt, I’m afraid my study of the particular passage has been less than theological. In just a quick perusal I note that following the triumphal entry the story turns to a series of events/parables in which Jesus is challenged by or confronts a false profession of faith – the fig tree, the challenge of the Scribes and Pharisees, the parable of the two “double minded” sons, the parable of the wicked tenants, the parable of the marriage feast, and then the challenge about the payment of taxes. The series of challenges ends with Jesus’ “unanswerable question” – but immediately is followed by the 7 woes of ch. 23. So, the parable is clearly intended (at least by Matthew) to illustrate that mere appearance of being faithful (the fig tree, the deceptive son, the impolite wedding guest) does not guarantee the true blessing of being “chosen.” (Mt. 22:14).

        There may be a slight connection to Lk. 14 in that immediately following the parable of the banquet, Jesus turns to the crowd and tells them three times that unless they are willing to follow certain behaviors they “cannot” be his disciple. But the two parables are clearly set in a different time frame, although the subject matter is distantly related.

        I guess my question should better be stated as, “does Matthew’s parable shine any additional light on the parable as told by Luke?” and if not then it certainly does not need to be stretched in order to do so.

    • mattdabbs says:

      I am really going to have to dig into Matt 22 more. I think it probably has to do with Matt 22 being far more overtly eschatological than Luke 14. In Matt 22 it is not just a banquet, it is a wedding banquet where a certain attire was to be expected, and which Matthew is making a point off of. Pair that with a different situation than Luke 14, Jesus entering Jerusalem and you get even more eschatological tones.

      The parable in Luke 14 is a direct answer to the man’s question in 14:15 (while eating with Jesus at a table) about the teachings Jesus just gave about how to position yourself when invited to a banquet. So the context of Luke 14 seems to be a more direct example of how God does the very thing with us that Jesus is calling on his listeners to do in 14:12-14.

      Again, I will do a little more digging in the morning regarding the differences in these two parables. Thanks for sharing your insights and questions. Good stuff!

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