The Bible study in March continued the series on evangelism, this session looking at ‘God’s Welcome’.
Jesus’ teaching was both radical and revolutionary. We find it challenging because it’s often the opposite of what we expect, but God’s mission is to change and transform the world. He turns world values upside down.
As the church of Christ, we must be agents of God’s transforming love, but so often over the centuries the church has got it wrong and done the opposite of what Jesus taught: think of the Crusades, or how the church in Germany accepted the persecution of the Jews. Therefore we need to be rooted in the teachings of Jesus, because God’s welcome excludes nobody.
We looked at the story of Zacchaeus (the tax collector who was none too tall) to ask the questions: who was welcomed? and, what barriers fell? We discovered that when Zacchaeus met with Jesus he received a welcome into God’s kingdom and found there the love and acceptance that enabled him to change as a human being. The barriers of his sin and others’ prejudice came tumbling down.
Stephen then encouraged us, in groups, to find other stories and ask the same questions. Between us all there was quite a collection of such stories, including: the woman who touched Jesus’ robe in the crowd; Nicodemus, who came to Jesus by night; the woman caught in adultery; the ten lepers who were healed; Jesus welcoming the little children – and more besides. In all of them we found that when people met Jesus their lives were transformed. The barriers of pride or fear, of pain or isolation, of being considered second-class – all fell away as they found themselves welcomed by God’s love.
If we, as a church, are to reflect that love, then we need to be a place of welcome to EVERYONE – with all the joys and difficulties that presents. We need to open our minds, our hearts and our arms. It is easy to say the words: the challenge for us is to go and do it!