The other night I was at a party. Bordering our slum on three sides (the fourth being the river/ place people throw trash) are nice middle class neighborhoods. On one of these borders there was a coming of age party (think bar mitzvah). It was an outlandish party involving 3 large tents blocking the road, multiple tables of food, a full traditional orchestra, singers, dancers, and a magician. Whew! And for all this hooplah…very few people were at the party. Let me rephrase…there were very few invited guests there. (Invited guests sit in the chairs).
There were, however, a boatload of uninvited guests (including yours truly) who had heard earlier in the day (as the tents were being set up) of the events that were being planned for the evening. So when the music started, several of us meandered over. Not being invited guests, we stood along the back and sides of the stage enthralled with an event of such beauty and culture that rarely happens in places of poverty.
As I looked around, it reminded me of the many stories Jesus told of the Kingdom of God being like a banquet (or a party) filled with all kinds of unexpected people, particularly the kinds of people that don’t generally get invited to a lot of parties in the here and now. I understood better the story (from Luke 14) of the people who were invited to the party not coming (clearly our host had expected more “invited” guests) because they had better things to do. But the poor, they have no such illusions. They know a valuable thing when they see it…and if it is free all the better! I so long for my neighbors here to be able to see and be attracted to the kingdom of God the way they were to that party. No one had to invite them, they simply heard the music (the musicians had arrived in the early afternoon to set up and practice) and word spread.
I think that is what God intends for his kingdom; that the beauty of love and compassion and peace and justice would be the kind of things that attracts people. He longs that we would not be like the “invited” guests, finding excuses to avoid doing things that are not convenient to us, but that we would see the amazing opportunity before us to be part of the great festival that is the kingdom. And that is doing so we would live a life that attracts others to the party also.
[Written by a member of the Jakarta team. Names have been changed for security reasons.]