The amazing truth is that God invites us into his story even while we are still sinners. Remember, we’re a mess. We don’t live in the perfection of God’s shalom, we live in the chaos that comes after the fall. We are the unfaithful spouse who spurned God countless times and spread corruption and pollution everywhere in his creation. We’re the ones who rejected God and began worshipping ourselves. We’re the sinners.
And that’s precisely who God invites into his Kingdom.
The closest I can come to imagining this is to think about what it would be like for me to come home one day and find some homeless guy sitting on my front step. He’s dirty and it smells like he’s been drinking nonstop since the sun came up. He’s clearly had a rough life. And he’s sitting outside my front door.
On the other side of that door is my home, my family, my shalom. What should I do? Should I open the door? Should I invite him in? Should I bring this man into my home, introduce him to my daughters, seat him at my table, and share my life with him? Or should I sneak through the garage, hoping that he doesn’t see me, leaving the door closed, protecting my shalom from his corrupting presence?
If I’m honest with myself, the best I could probably hope for is that I would take him to a homeless shelter where he could get cleaned up and back on his feet. When he’s a little more respectable, a little less drunk, and much safer, then maybe I’ll invite him over for dinner.
Until then, the door stays closed.
That’s not how God’s Kingdom works. Seeing us outside the door to his Kingdom, what does he do? He invites us in. And he doesn’t ask us to go get cleaned up first. Instead, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). God knows us in all of our brokenness. He knows the sins that we wear on our sleeves, and he knows the corruption that we hide deep within. And still he opens the door so we can enter his home, sit at his table, be a part of his family, share in his shalom.
When God comes home and sees us homeless beggars standing on his front step, he opens the door.
God’s table is not for the respectable. God’s table is for the broken, the poor, and the shamed.
That’s us. We are the beggars.
The good news is that God invites us to dinner, and we don’t have to get cleaned up first.
[This is an excerpt from a book that I’m writing about the gospel, Good News for the Living Dead: A Fresh Take on the Gospel Story. You can read the other excerpts and keep track of new ones as they become available on my blog.]