Having just arrived, I want to say ‘thank you’ for the warm welcome we’ve received. We feel loved! Welcoming might seem a small thing. But it’s fundamental to our God.
In Luke 19, Jesus celebrates the transformation of one sinner:
‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save what was lost’ (Luke 19v9-10).
Christ delights to welcome sinners into his household, his family. It’s why he came. JC Ryle reflects on this moment, drawing out all sorts of interesting implications. Ryle sees the wisdom of putting yourself in position to receive grace: like Zacchaeus overcame obstacles to see Jesus, he warns against complaining about your poor spiritual state while neglecting things (like engaging at church or reading God’s Word) that would help you receive grace. Ryle notes as well the power of grace: Zacchaeus was as far from salvation as would be thought (a despised traitor to God’s people & a greedy abuser of power) – yet even he wasn’t beyond Jesus’ grace. ‘We see a covetous tax-gatherer transformed into a liberal (generous) Christian! The door of hope which the gospel reveals to sinners is very wide open. Let us leave it as we find it’.
Let us leave the door of hope wide-open to sinners.
In part, that means the way we welcome anyone & everyone who come through the doors of church. After a period of long service leave, a minister in WA shared with his church:
‘I’m always interested to see how I’ll be welcomed, not as a minister but as a stranger. On this recent set of church visits, some people made me very unwelcome when they clearly looked at me (standing alone) but then looked away. It felt a bit better when other people actually sat down with me to talk with me.
As an example of the latter, a man walked over to talk with me right after the service. He asked a bit about how I was going and told me a bit about how the church was going. We also discussed the sermon, or rather the topic the sermon was about (forgiveness). That man even offered to pray for me at the end of our conversation, which was a first for me as a newcomer.
I encourage every member of our church family to follow that man’s example. God brings people to our church from different parts of Australia most Sundays. And we just never know how much we might be able to encourage them by (among other things) welcome them properly. We also never know how much we might benefit from our contact with this person, even if it’s just a one-off’.
As a ‘stranger’, this minister experienced the welcome of wide-open gospel door. May all who visit us, receive the welcome we enjoyed. May they taste a little of Christ ‘who came to seek and save what was lost’.