There’s something sinister about the closed group. You know, the turned backs in the playground, the boss’s in-crowd, the members-only notice. A few decades ago we grew out of posting “Irish and Blacks Not Welcome” signs outside our B&Bs. Since then we thought perhaps that we had overcome our fear and moved on to a higher plane of co-existence with our fellow man.
But once again we hear of the building of walls to keep others out and of British politicians who want to hang a “Not Welcome” sign over the white cliffs of Dover. At the centre of the closed group there is always a bully. A powerful person wanting control over his or her domain. A weak person actually; one not confident in their own value or identity. One who seeks to protect the known and the comfortable although beauty, satisfaction and joy lie in the invitation to the unknown and the new.
And that’s what’s so astounding about the God of the bible. The all-powerful One who reveals Himself through the words of this book as an inviter, a welcomer. One who takes incredible risks with Himself and His creation just to be able to say “Come.” One whose open-doors policy chose to unlock the way to freedom with open arms on a cruel cross.
The Great Inviter caused it to be written 2500 years ago, “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.” (Isaiah 55:1). Psalm 23 says that He prepares a table. John’s gospel opens with a welcome, “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:11-12). The Book ends with, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” (Revelation 3:20). The bible seems to be one long invitation to come to the party, come to me, come home.
That level of invitation reflects a super-confidence in One’s self. It reveals a Being who values the other as worthy of attention. An invitation offered by One who has endless resources. It is the warm-hearted invitation to me, to you and to them: the excluded and the different-from-us. It is fearless. Fearless. Fearless. And fear is at the heart of the closed group.
When our posture turns us away from others we deny our God-given shape and we belittle ourselves. We become less than we were made to be and less than those we reject. We succumb to the bully and to a reduced vision of what we could become.
In Britain we are free, we are wealthy, we stand on a Judeo-Christian heritage that is the envy of the lawless world. Let us be God-like in our invitation as we smile at the newcomer, make tea for our neighbour and give sanctuary to all who come to our shores.