Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Invitation or call?

Have you noticed that "invitational" is the current buzzword in some Christian circles? It describes a way of relating to the other such that the inviter would like the invited to do or listen to something. It seems to be a correction to un-Christlike ways of relating which involve some form of (verbal but sometimes physical) coercion. For instance: "Accept Jesus as your personal savior if you want to avoid the eternal damnation which you are certainly headed toward if you don't do it right now!" Hopefully, people will see a problem with that way of relating (evangelizing).

Enter the new(er) buzzword: "I invite you to hear my story of what Jesus means to me." This sounds much nicer than the above fiat. But I would argue that something is missing. It seems too watered down. If I get an invitation to a Columbus Day party, I might respond "Hey! That sounds like a blast! I'll bring a dead Indian!" or more likely "Meh. I'll be busy watching re-runs of The Sopranos that night." The invitation gets tossed without a second thought; no biggie, no consequences.

Is that what the call to follow Jesus is? Merely an invitation, or is there more? I think that what we are calling the other to accept ought to be clear. Give them a chance to grasp what it is they might be rejecting and what kind of world is created when the call of Jesus is rejected (weeping and gnashing of teeth?).

I think that "call" is the better word anyway. We can look at Jesus' way of calling his disciples as our example. Invitational? Yes, but also quite urgent and serious - "Follow me and you'll end up fishing for people" and eventually "Take up your cross and follow me."

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