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Accepting Jesus and everyone else at his table

Posted by on Sep 17, 2012 in blog links | 37 comments

Accepting Jesus and everyone else at his table

A few months ago (maybe longer?) I “met” Jeph and Craig online through a mutual online friend. Recently, they rebooted their blog, now called “Throwing Bricks.” Craig recently published an excellent article called “Accepting a seat at the table.”

After talking briefly about the exclusivity of table fellowship in the first century (and today?), Craig reminds us that Jesus ate with both the Pharisees and other elites in society as well as with the sinners. He then carries this idea of a more open fellowship into the early church.

Finally, Craig ends the post with a challenge for the church today:

It’s strange but I often find Christians who are hesitant to fellowship with other followers of Christ who don’t share their particular set of doctrinal beliefs, political affiliations, worship preferences, social / economic status, race, age or perceived level of maturity. They are more concerned with being proved right than being with Jesus. It’s as though we are still abiding by the old rules of table fellowship. I have some old friends that border on fundamentalism and though we all believe in Jesus and strive to follow his teachings we remain distant due to certain interpretations of scripture. What gets me is that I have no problem calling them brother and sister but I’m not sure they would reciprocate that sentiment and it sucks. Jesus didn’t discriminate based on any of these factors but rather invited anyone to come. To respond to Jesus’ invitation and accept a seat at the table is to accept Jesus himself and everyone else at the table regardless of personal differences.

Of course, if we read 1 Corinthians 11 and James 2, we find that some of the early followers of Jesus had the same problem… although this problem was not accepted and perpetuated then like it is today.

The last part of that quote is key. It reminds me of something that Paul wrote: “Therefore, accept one another as Christ has accepted you, for the glory of God.” (Romans 15:7)

Are we following Jesus? If so, we will accept everyone who Jesus has accepted.


37 Comments

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  1. 9-17-2012

    Coming from a fundamentalist background myself, I can say that one of the big hangups is a misinterpretation of 2 Corinthians 6:17.

    “Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord.”

    In fact, the wrongful application of this verse pretty much sums up everything about what “fundamentalism” has become. (By “fundamentalism,” I am here referring to the legalistic subset, not to those who hold to the classic fundamentals.)

    This verse is taken to mean that we must not in any way associate with anything that is “worldly,” including “worldly Christians.”

    Granted there are reasons for separating from those who may be believers (i.e. 1 Corinthians 5:11), but this separation is reserved as a last-resort effort to restore a brother who is living in blatant and unrepentant immorality.

  2. 9-17-2012

    Jesus eating with the Pharisees and others while He was here during His earthly ministry is not the same as us accepting others to eat with us at our Father’s Table. Different tables, different menu.

    I often wonder about the man-made illustration of The Father’s Table/The Kingdom as being moreso of a cafeteria than a table. This allows each denomination to claim a seat and not have to eat what everyone else is eating. So it accommodates differing theologies while “allowing fellowship”. I don’t say this as necessarily a positive thing. It’s His Table, meaning we eat what He puts in front of us. There is no pick and choose.

    Chuck, allow me to ask you: What profit is it for you to fellowship with ‘worldly christians’? Do you mean christians who cuss, drink, and smoke, or do you mean worldly in the sense of blatantly anti-Jesus theologies that they blindly follow for the sake of politics? Can you clarify?

  3. 9-17-2012

    I tend to get frustrated when I don’t feel welcome (maybe it’s because I go out of my way to make everyone feel welcome around me or maybe it’s because I think Jesus would do it or maybe a little of both).

    I think having a ‘this seat’s taken’ mentality is an immature place to be. Although God’s bus has infinite amount of seats, I usually lose respect for people who take that space for granted and only allow like-minded people to consort with them.

    The idea that we can only learn or be constructively matured by a certain type of people is simply unGodly. It should behoove us to open up to what God’s saying through different minded people, be it religious/political/social differences.

  4. 9-17-2012

    Alan, thank you for accepting me. :-)

  5. 9-17-2012

    “The idea that we can only learn or be constructively matured by a certain type of people is simply unGodly.”

    Show me this in The Scriptures, in all of the wisdom and knowledge Christ has given us through His written word, and I will gladly open my life up to weaker christians to school me.

    The stronger supports the weaker. Always. Nowhere in The Scriptures has Christ said differently. What you call immaturity is merely people like me being focused, resolute, and properly guarding our hearts.

    The best case scenario you could offer me is that I learn what NOT to do by watching and reading the weaker-minded and unstable christians who blog under the pretense of having something to say. So in this, yes, I would be learning. But this is not how it should be.

  6. 9-17-2012

    Chuck,

    I come from a fundamentalist background also, although we were not considered fundamentalist enough (called liberal) by some who were apparently more fundamentalist. So, I definitely understand where you’re coming from. I appreciate what you said about 2 Corinthians 6:17.

    Donald,

    In the New Testament, Paul calls the Corinthians carnal, worldly. But, he also calls them saints (holy ones) and sanctified (set apart) in Christ Jesus. It’s these same carnal Christians that Paul says are the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. I think, if I understand Paul correctly (especially in 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4), he would say that yes, we need to both disciple and be discipled by all brothers and sisters who God puts in our lives… even the carnal ones. (By the way, there’s also the possibility that we later discover that those brothers and sisters were not actually carnal at all, but instead there was a problem with our understanding / maturity.)

    Jeph,

    The funny thing is that I’ve often been accused of being too lax by some and too strict by others. It is my desire, though, to accept all those who have been accepted by God in Jesus Christ, even if I disagree with them.

    -Alan

  7. 9-17-2012

    Donald,

    Although you were addressing Jeph, I think Ephesians 4:16 is one of the passages in Scripture that support what he wrote. I think Paul was serious when he said it’s everyone working together (including the carnal Christians and others we may disagree with) that results in the body being built up (edified) in love.

    -Alan

  8. 9-17-2012

    Alan,

    Again, I would believe this if it can be proven, and not merely alluded to, that Paul was addressing all Christians as you suppose. A person saying they are a Christian is not necessarily the truth.

    That passage begins with the amazing Ephesians 4:11 which as you know details the equipping ministries given by Jesus to mature His Body. In simpler terms, how do you know Paul himself learned from the weaker Christians? He says that The Spirit would mature us through this Five Fold Ministry list, and did not mention that weaker brothers would be useful in this maturing.

    Is it improper for me to believe that when Paul was walking the earth, he dealt with his fair share of wishy-washy Christians as we do today, and found them as lacking as we do today, and thus challenged them so they would be forced to truly examine their erroneous mindsets, hopefully for their maturing?

    Is it improper of me to publicly state that there are wishy-washy and unstable Christians today who know just enough of The Scriptures to formulate erroneous theologies, far removed from His Truth, and that we should call them out so that The Body can be brought to maturity?

    Is it improper for me to wish to guard His Body against the failures of man’s theology so She can remain spotless and pure, looking at His Kingdom as being black and white (His Way is Everything)?

    I fully appreciate your desire to want to walk in some kind of rainbows and unicorns type of doormat christian lovey-love, but this would require me to dismiss His Holiness and His Sovereignty. I simply cannot and will not ever do that, Alan. I cannot.

    I will not lower the standards our Father has set so that others can fraudulently claim fellowship with Him, only to be harshly woken up later on in their lives.

    Thank you, Alan Knox. Thank you for showing me something I needed to see.

  9. 9-17-2012

    Donald,

    In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul directly addressed some people who were visiting prostitutes. He told them they were taking Christ with them when they visited prostitutes. Did Paul accept them as brothers in Christ? Yes. Did he agree with their actions? No! In fact, it was because he continued to accept them as brothers and sisters in Christ and continued in fellowship with them that he even had the opportunities to help them grow in maturity. Paul did not throw in the towel, dismiss them as carnal Christians, and separate from them.

    There is a difference between accepting someone as a brother or sister in Christ and accepting their sin as pleasing to God. Again, I think Paul is a great model of this distinction. We need to both accept one another AND help one another grow in maturity in Jesus Christ.

    -Alan

  10. 9-17-2012

    Donald, you asked me, “What profit is it for you to fellowship with ‘worldly christians’? Do you mean christians who cuss, drink, and smoke, or do you mean worldly in the sense of blatantly anti-Jesus theologies that they blindly follow for the sake of politics? Can you clarify?”

    I used the phrase “worldly Christians” to mean what the legalists would consider to be worldly. That is, anything that differs from their very precise and exacting self-imposed standards of holiness.

    This will vary by different groups, but it often includes not listening to certain types of music, not wearing certain types of clothes (especially to a church meeting), not uttering certain words, not consuming certain food or drinks, not using a certain translation of the Bible, etc.

    These are not, however, my standards to determine a “worldly Christian.” I don’t believe there is such a thing as a worldly Christian. I believe there are elect, and there are non-elect. However, there are some elect who are living in sin, and there are some non-elect who claim Christ.

    Paul says that we are to accept those who claim Christ, unless they are living in blatant and unrepentant immorality.

    As for “blatantly anti-Jesus theologies,” might I ask you to clarify what sort of theologies you consider to be “anti-Jesus”?

  11. 9-17-2012

    Alan, I’m not so sure about that interpretation of 1 Corinthians 6. In the previous chapter, he just finished saying that we shouldn’t even eat with an immoral person. I’m pretty sure that applies to one who goes to prostitutes.

    There is, of course, a huge difference between a brother who commits such a sin yet repents, and one who continues in his sin with no sorrow or desire to stop.

  12. 9-17-2012

    *an immoral person who claims to be a brother

  13. 9-17-2012

    Chuck,

    I agree. There is a big difference. What about the person who claims to be a brother, is convicted and sorrowful, repents, then later commits the same sin?

    -Alan

  14. 9-17-2012

    I would say that if he continues to repent, we should continue to accept him. I don’t think it is ours to judge whether his repentance is sincere or not.

  15. 9-17-2012

    Chuck,

    I agree. But from the outside (without ongoing fellowship with the person) it may be difficult to tell the difference.

    By the way, concerning the issue with prostitution in 1 Corinthians 6, I think Paul certainly sets it up as a possibility, even if he wasn’t addressing an actual occurrence (occurrences).

    -Alan

  16. 9-17-2012

    Alan,

    It’s been my experience that in merely offering the hand of friendship to those who are shunned by those who set themselves apart, whether the shunned ones who claim to be Christian, or apparent unbelievers, the Holy Spirit opens their minds to hear the gospel through both word and deed, sometimes revealing that we have been in the company of “angels”.

    Those who come to the communion table are examined by the Holy Spirit as to their motives and heart attitudes, not by mere men, who make assessments of others according to an interpretation of Scripture which enhances their own idea of themselves.

    Those who know the Scriptures better than I, would recognize that Jesus pronounced woes on such spiritual sheriffs!

  17. 9-17-2012

    Hey Alan,

    Wow, this is a good word. I’m hard pressed to find many Christians talking about this in a positive sense. (As an aside, I personally think that N.T. Wright’s take on justification brings a lot of clarity to matter, highlighting the “one table” nature of the new life in Christ.) It is a powerful picture to others when they actually see a group of individuals cooperating, loving each other, and humbly serving one another, even when there are disagreements. The family of God is beyond any barrier we attempt to set up, and I am so thankful for that!

    Donald, I really think there are times when we can learn from those are weaker (a.k.a. less mature than us). It’s really hard to imagine Paul never, ever learning anything from anyone else. Otherwise, his whole analogy of the body working together and each part being necessary for the other members, breaks down. Just my two-cents. I think the kind of loving that takes place between members who disagree is very clear in Paul’s other writing when, for example, he says in Philippians 1:9-11 that our love should grow together with knowledge, discerning what’s right. I believe it is possible to be loving and discerning at the same time.

    Thanks for sharing Alan!

  18. 9-18-2012

    Aussie John,

    “Spiritual sheriff”… have you worn that badge before? I think that we can help one another examine our lives, if we approach the matter humbly and gently with a desire to grow and learn ourselves as well.

    John,

    You said, “It is a powerful picture to others when they actually see a group of individuals cooperating, loving each other, and humbly serving one another, even when there are disagreements.” That reminds me of what Jesus prayed in John 17. He said the world would know that the Father sent him into the world because of our unity.

    -Alan

  19. 9-18-2012

    I get confused in the application of what you seem to be saying. I agree that we can and should help each other examine our lives with humility and gentleness. But when solid biblical counsel gets willfully ignored what should be our response?

  20. 9-18-2012

    Ben,

    If someone continually refuses to mature in their understanding and the way they live, then we treat them as if they are not brothers and sisters in Christ.

    -Alan

  21. 9-18-2012

    So would you treat stubborn Arminians as if they are not brothers and sisters in Christ?

  22. 9-18-2012

    Ben,

    I’d probably treat a stubborn Arminian much like I would a stubborn Calvinist – as a brother/sister in Christ until he/she proved otherwise.

    -Alan

  23. 9-18-2012

    I would probably also treat the stubborn Arminian as a brother/sister in Christ. How do you distinguish between someone who refuses to mature in their understanding and life from a stubborn dogmaticist/stubborn heretic? It seems like you treat the former as a lost person and the latter as a saved person. On what basis?

  24. 9-18-2012

    Ben,

    While we can never know with certainty whether or not someone is a brother or sister in Christ, I think the Scriptures give several clues, among other things by observing what the person says, the way they live their life, the way they respond to sin in their own life, and the way they approach other people – including other Christians who differ with them. If someone claims to be a brother/sister in Christ, then I desire to treat that person as a brother/sister in Christ until something (such as I listed above, for example) indicates otherwise. Then, it is only after careful consideration and counsel with other mature believers who know the person would I begin to then treat the person as if he/she was not a brother/sister in Christ (i.e. not a saved person).

    -Alan

  25. 9-18-2012

    How would your actions toward a person change if you started to view and treat them as not being a brother/sister in Christ?

  26. 9-18-2012

    Ben, maybe I’m misunderstanding, but it seems from this discussion like you are equating Calvinism with “solid biblical counsel.” Is that correct?

    Without trying to get into the classic debate, I don’t think we should try to equate any humanly-discerned soteriological theory with “sound biblical counsel.”

    The fact of the matter is that both sides (and the middle) have been struggling with these questions throughout the history of the church. Neither side (nor the middle) is “willfully ignoring” anything in such debates.

    The camp one falls in soteriologically has nothing to do with spiritual maturity, and it certainly should not affect our ability to fellowship with one another.

  27. 9-18-2012

    If everybody at the table was just listening to Jesus & focusing on Him…. we wouldn’t even realize we had different opinions or preferences or interpretations. Maybe we just need to be more like Mary sitting at His feet together enjoying His company together….

    and maybe the bigger the table, the less appropriate it is to discuss the “other” things…. when you are at a smaller tables, where you know each other’s hearts… that can be a place to process out some discrepancies of the other “stuff” that is secondary to Christ.

  28. 9-18-2012

    Alan,

    To answer your question: My “apprenticeship” as a in Churchianity was in the art of being a spiritual sheriff. The manual of laws and rules was administered by a fellow called “pastor” who was enthroned as the oracle of God.

    Much to my shame, I was a good apprentice.

    Decades ago the ugliness of such became very apparent to me causing much repentance. Now-a-days,I am sensitive towards such behavior, especially when I read those who are self appointed guardians of the truth.

    Totally agree with your further comment, although some who would say they “approach the matter humbly and gently” are doing the exact opposite, usually under the guise of “tough love”, saying they are practicing Eph.4:2. The self-effacing nature of humility doesn’t sit well with humans,even saved ones.

    I think Lenski was right,””The pagan and the secular idea of manhood is self-assertiveness, imposing one’s will on others; when anyone stooped to others he did so only under compulsion, hence his action was ignominious [disgraceful]. The Christian ethical idea of humility could not be reached by the secular mind; it lacked the spiritual soil.”

    Only the secular mind?

  29. 9-19-2012

    Chuck,

    Thanks for your question. To be clear from the get go, I am a Calvinist, but I wasn’t equating Calvinism with sound biblical teaching. I was equating Arminianism with unsound biblical teaching.:) Perhaps I’m wrong about that, and I am willing to hear you out on this issue if you’d like to talk about it in more depth. (my email address is ben@seedmongers.com) I guess where we disagree is that I believe that there is a sound position on this issue, and that we don’t just have “humanly-discerned soteriological theories” to pick from. God’s word speaks on this issue. The fact that people still debate this issue doesn’t mean that God’s word is unclear or that the truth is unsettled. The Arian controversy hasn’t really ceased since the fouth century. Arians have gone underground at different times during the past, but they resurface and continue to argue their case whenever the political climate allows them to, even at times when it doesn’t. Michael Servetus and the Socinians were no joke. They helped foster an intellectual respectability for Unitarianism and they established an Arian stronghold in Transylvania that exists to this day. Say what you will about these guys, but they were not intellectual lightweights. They were well-read and intelligent people. I am none of those things, yet I believe that both you and I would say that they were wrong about Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and even about the Father. I don’t think saying that makes us arrogant twits or self-righteous spiritual sheriffs. God has opened our eyes on some issues, and we need to stand faithfully for what He has revealed to us.

    Just to clarify, I don’t treat Arminians like they’re lost, I treat them like they’re wrong. I don’t try to judge their hearts, or their standing with God. That’s something that’s way beyond my paygrade, and I actually wonder if that’s even appropriate for us to do.

    I think Randi had a good word. If we were all more like Mary listening to Jesus and obeying His voice none of these issues would ever be raised.

    Aussiejohn,

    You said some good stuff in your comment, and some of your rebukes hit home. Thank you for them. I should probably just stop my comment there, shut my hole, and end this thing on a positive note, but perhaps my selfish manhood drives me on, I don’t know. Your Lenski comment was great. Humility is from God and is beautiful. There is definitely a time to simply shut our holes and just serve people. No debate there. Where we might disagree is I believe that there are other times when cowardice disguises itself as humility. Sometimes we have to stoop to serve man, at other times we have to stoop to serve God. Sometimes that stooping to God puts us in ignominious situations where we come into conflict with men. The modern idea of manhood has been softened and feminized as has the modern-day conception of Christianity. The modern world wants Christianity to capitulate and compromise in the name of love and humility. Granted there are extremes that need to be avoided in the other direction, which you seem to be very aware of, and perhaps I’m too unaware of. My concern is that the organic movement seems to be playing into the postmodern agenda and is sucking the spine out of Christians. Anyone who tries to inject some doctrinal testosterone into the church today gets cut down by the postmodern world and also by fellow Christians…fast. Perhaps I’m over-reacting, but maybe that’s because my path has gone in the opposite direction as yours. I grew up with a big heart and absolutely no backbone. I was pretty non-denominational as a kid, but not denominationally non-denominational. I grew up listening to Chuck Smith, and not attending any assembly regularly. I had no denominational fortress to defend, so I was kind of into the whole go-with-the-flow thing doctrinally. To this day, I still love Chuck Smith, but I got ahold of some books by some Westminster divines when I got out of high school and they kicked me in the brain…repeatedly and profusely. They outed me as a pragmatic people-pleaser, not a God-lover. I loved man’s approval more than God’s. And I understand that doctrinal precision is not God’s cheif concern. What I disagree with is the mindset that says doctrinal precision is of no concern. That is dangerous, comes from the pit, and smells like smoke in my book. Just to calm any fears you may have let me console you be letting you know that I’ve never had any position of in any assembly, so I’ve never had any heirachical power to whip people into shape with. I have no desire for such a thing. I have a desire to see Jesus loved, and his truth valued, and His Church purified. As far as I can tell latitudinarian principles have not accomplished that, and as near as I can tell, latitudinarian principles cannot accomplish that.

  30. 9-19-2012

    Ben,
    Thank you for addressing my comment.

    You will get no disagreement from me on the points you make, including the importance of right doctrine, with the proviso being, ONLY according to Scripture. The same Scriptures recognize only one church, the Church of Jesus Christ, His “spiritual house”, as Peter describes it.

    There will be no Calvinists, or Arminians, in that “spiritual house”, only those whom, as Paul told the Colossians, “…. God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

    Your last sentence regarding latitudinarian principles is a puzzle: because non-latitudarian principles have not accomplished your “desire to see Jesus loved, and his truth valued, and His Church purified”, certainly not in my short 73 years.

    Institutional Christianism has been, at least since Constantine, trying to build an earthly house, with an ever evolving system of human centered programs, pressure and persuasion, trying to achieve what Jesus, by His Spirit, already has achieved, and is, achieving!

  31. 9-19-2012

    Thanks for your answer, Ben. I think I can agree with what you’re saying.

    I am personally neither Calvinist nor Arminian (though I once fervently defended Calvinism). At this point, I see both truths to be gleaned and falsehoods to be avoided in both systems.

    But above all is the desire to avoid a “system” which forces a certain interpretation onto the Bible. I want to read every passage as it stands in it’s original context, without feeling pressured to make it conform to a presupposition about what I think it should be saying.

    Calvinism and Arminianism both do that to their own “difficult” passages.

  32. 9-19-2012

    Chuck,

    Are we sons or are we converts? Are we the elect or are we the non-elect? Are we saved by Grace or by Chance?

    So many questions, so little time. ;)

  33. 9-19-2012

    Donald. Yes and yes. Yes, no. Yes, no. :)

  34. 9-20-2012

    Dan,

    The point of my post is that we should accept (receive, welcome, etc.) anyone who is accepted by Jesus. The primary difference in how we treat people who are not accepted by Jesus (as far as I can tell) revolves around the lack of spiritual connection and responsibility to help one another grow in maturity in Christ. The only other difference that I see in Scripture is that we separate from those who claim to be believers, but who are consistently teaching or living otherwise.

    Ben, Aussie John, and Chuck,

    I really enjoyed your discussion. Thank you all!

    Randi,

    If only… yes, our goal and purpose when we gather is to focus on Jesus and to help others focus on Jesus. I wonder why so many other things become the focus (in Jesus’ name, of course)?

    -Alan

  35. 9-20-2012

    I wonder why, too.

    “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks”

    so I imagine we need “above all else a glorious unveiling of Jesus”, to quote Frank Viola.

    To have all the “other stuff” stripped away until we are returned to our First Love – so our hearts will be full and our mouths will follow.

  36. 9-21-2012

    Randi,

    Here’s to continually helping one another strip away and work through the other stuff. :)

    -Alan

  37. 9-21-2012

    :) continuing on