Years ago, I attended a company Christmas party (remember those?) with my husband. As we entered the large dining hall, Ken saw a couple of men he worked with about to sit down. Their table had four or five empty seats so he said, “Mind if we join you?”
His friend Craig (not his real name) said, “Oh, sorry… we were trying to get the directors together at this table.” Immediately, Ken said, “Oh! No problem,” and turned to walk away. But a moment later, Craig (probably aware of how condescending this sounded) called him back. Ken—not wanting to linger where he wasn’t welcome—was already several steps away and didn’t hear. But I did.
I could see Craig’s predicament. He had been pleased with the idea of filling his table with people of status and rank. (At least in this room, they held status.) Yet, he apparently didn’t want to be rude. I made a split second decision and rather than leaving the invitation unanswered, I got Ken’s attention. “He says there’s room for us,” I said, pointing back at the table.
An arrogant man would have kept walking, but my husband is not an arrogant man.
The World’s Seating Arrangement
There’s always a table that outranks another, and there are always people trying to get their feet under it. For the record, this is not what my husband was trying to do. He simply saw someone he worked with and considered a friend, and asked to join his table. With an extra measure of humility, my kind, strong husband seated himself at a table, where he had been made to feel like he didn’t belong. And then he did what he would have done at any table in the room: He good-naturedly engaged with those seated near him.
I couldn’t have been more proud.
But that memory of initially being asked to leave still makes my heart sink. Do you have any heart-sinking memories like this? Have your palms gotten sweaty as you searched for a seat at the table? Has your heart flooded with jealousy because someone else was invited to a table where you weren’t welcome?Have your palms gotten sweaty as you searched for a seat at the table? Has your heart flooded with jealousy because someone else was invited to a table where you weren't welcome? Click To Tweet
I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. This “no vacancy at the table” mentality is inevitable in a place where getting ahead and measuring up is the objective. Our world is a cold, heartless, harsh place—a place where things stack up like a pyramid. If you’re the one vying for rank at the top of the pyramid, you hardly want to invite others to join you up there! What would happen if you started inviting everyone? The pyramid would begin inverting, and then where would the status be? To prove yourself in this measure-up world, you have to put distance between you and them. You have to show that you belong at the table, and they don’t.
But in the kingdom of God, all are welcome.
The Tables of the Kingdom
The kingdom is a place where the great ones are those who sit wherever they’re invited, and those who are “first” make room for those who are “last”—or anyone else who wants to join them. This is not only what Jesus taught, but it’s what he also modeled.
Think of the various tables Jesus put his feet under (or reclined at, which was the middle eastern custom.)
- He ate with prestigious Pharisees (Luke 7:36).
- He dined with wealthy tax collectors (Luke 19:2, 6).
- He allowed a sinful woman near as he sat at a prestigious table (Luke 7:37-38).
- He refused to shew away little children (Matt. 19:14).
Repeatedly, Jesus “welcomed sinners” (Luke 15:2) and went to whatever table he was invited to. And think also of the first half of his life.
Jesus—the Creator of the universe—allowed himself to be spoon-fed by a peasant girl. He became part of a humble family who lived in a humble home. Day after day, meal after meal, Jesus put his feet under a table that held no status. And he did so, by choice.
Jesus at Your Table
Picture the various tables you sit at. Your table at home. Your table in the community. Your table at church. Your table at the Christmas company party. Now picture this: Jesus wants to put his feet under your table. He said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Rev. 3:20).Regardless of what type of table yours is, Jesus is willing to put his feet under your table. Click To Tweet
See that word “anyone”? That includes you.
Jesus came at Christmas because he wanted to reach you. His purpose was to bring you back to the Father (I Pet. 3:18). And if you have responded to Jesus, who suffered in your place, then you’re included! You’re part of the God’s family and he sees you as already seated at his final table (Eph. 2:5-6). But for now, those of us who are “in Christ” must live according to His kingdom, not the kingdom of this measure-up world.
Have you ever been told there was no room at a particular table? Or have you given someone else the impression there was no room for them? The kingdom of God is a place where each person is welcomed to the table. This Christmas, let’s celebrate the God who came near, by living according to the kingdom’s values, not the world’s.
All Are Welcome
Here’s a beautiful song, written and produced by members of my church, Ada Bible, titled, “All Are Welcome” which describes the grace of God, welcoming us all to his table. I hope you’ll take a moment and listen.
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I would have left and never looked back. My husband would have left and never spoke to the guy again. Ever. So kudos to both of you. I guess we still have some work to do. Beautiful story, Shannon. Thank you for sharing.