Back in the day in Israel they had this thing about Gentiles. It wasn’t exactly God’s idea – more of a skewed interpretation. See, God did not want Israel, His people, to act/speak/live like everyone else. “Everyone else” meaning, the Gentiles. Why? Because they did bad things. Like sacrifice their children to idols (kind of like abortion… sacrificing a baby to the god of self…). They cheated each other. They were cruel. They lived in ways that spread disease, because germs hadn’t been discovered yet, so some of God’s laws were along the lines of “practice good hygiene and you won’t get diseases.” God said don’t be just like them – they have bad ideas! But God never said “Don’t let them come in.”

In fact, God always made provision for anyone to come in, as long as they really did adopt God’s ways, instead of infiltrating and leading people away from God. Enter Jesus, who actually was a really nice guy! Even to Gentiles! But, like most things Jesus said, his followers didn’t quite get it until much later.

Paul writes to the Ephesians about this issue, particularly in chapters 1-3, that— SURPRISE! The Gentiles are invited too!!! In fact, it was the plan all along! EVERYONE HAS A PLACE IN GOD’S PLAN! Everyone can be adopted and experience the rich mercy and kindness of God.

Fast forward two thousand years, give or take a few, and we still haven’t realized that everyone is invited. For most of the people in my life the issue isn’t about race, as the Jew-Gentile issue was (sadly, I know this is not always true). So I began to wonder… “What is it that people often feel would exclude them from being part of God’s family of blessings? What is it that keeps us thinking not everyone is invited.” That’s when it hit me:

Jerk is the new Gentile.

Gentiles would consider themselves as “out” from experiencing God’s favor, or being invited. Even the temple was set up that way: Gentiles could worship God, but only on the outer court. But NOW, “God has broken down the middle wall of separation,” Paul says in Ephesians 2:14, evoking that temple image of insiders-outsiders. Now, what do we consider might keep us away from God? Because we’re jerks. We’ve all done lots of bad things, and we can’t imagine God forgiving us of all our sins. OR…. we think “That guy is such a jerk…she’s such a jerk… they don’t deserve God’s grace and favor.” But guess what, EVERYONE HAS A PLACE IN GOD’S PLAN! God even loves jerks. And this is GOOD NEWS. Because we are all jerks sometimes. And I am really glad God doesn’t look at my worse moments and judge me by them. Instead, God looks at me through Jesus Christ, and I get to experience his lavish kindness instead.

It is also humbling news… what person hasn’t considered a difficult person in their life and thought to themselves, “I hope their behavior comes back to bite them.” Or, “they brought that difficulty on themselves! Let them deal with their own consequences.” Or even sometimes, “God must be really angry at them because of the horrible things they have done to me while I follow God.” But Jesus even died for the jerks. He wants all of us. This is what God wants:

For Christ to be more and more at home in our hearts as we trust in Him. He wants our roots to go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love. God wants us to have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep God’s love really is. May we experience the love of Christ, though it is so great that we’ll never fully understand it. Then we will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now glory be to God! By his mighty power at work within us, He is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope. And may Jesus be given glory in the church, forever and ever through endless ages, Amen. (Eph. 3:17-21)

And God will be glorifed, perhaps especially when we His people learn how to love even the jerks in our lives. Because they are invited too.

Surprise!

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