Pop quiz: Why do people throw parties? I imagine that some just like to have fun with friends. Sometimes, parties are a means to honor special events for loved one. Others may just need an excuse to revel, and feel awkward doing so alone. I imagine that parties are also held when famous people are visiting, so that the host can show off a little!
Have you ever thrown a party for someone unpopular? To be clear, I’m talking about a real, genuine party, not some sick joke to make fun of them. By definition, someone like this doesn’t have a lot of friends, so what would that kind of party look like? You’d need to learn about the honoree’s tastes in food and music, and determine who else to invite. It could still be a great time, especially if you got to learn some interesting things about the guest of honor, but it would definitely be out of the ordinary.
Take a look at this passage from the book of Luke:
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
Luke 15:1-7 NIV
We may have heard this parable before. It is encouraging to learn about the joy that is present in heaven when a soul – even our own – returns to the family of God. God does not look for excuses to throw us out of His presence. While our sin is incompatible with His nature, He actively went out of His way to make a way for that sin to be paid for, so that we could return to Him. That is really great news!
However, celebration in the family of God is not limited to Heaven. It’s not just something that Christians look forward to in the future. For one thing, the freedom and blessings of following Jesus don’t remain idle until the believer gets to heaven. There are also freedoms, blessings, and rewards that can be enjoyed during our mortal lives on this earth. In the same way, notice what Jesus had been accused of at the start of this passage: He was spending time with other people and eating with them. I see this as Jesus not only sharing the good news about the Kingdom of God (with those who knew that they needed help), but maybe also getting a head-start on the celebration of someone joining the family of God.
Just like Jesus, we don’t have to wait for the great banquet in Heaven to celebrate. We can rejoice when lost people find salvation. We can celebrate when anyone – even someone who we may not like…or who may not like us – discovers the free gift of restoration offered by Jesus, and accepts the abundant life that He offers. We can also actively share this message with those who need it, hoping that they will join us in the celebration – both in Heaven, and beforehand. And, we can celebrate our blessings from God, even with those who haven’t yet chosen to share them.
So, find some people who know that they are sick – whether sick with sin, or sick of the pain, heartache, and loneliness that comes from being separated with God. Invite them to join you for coffee or a meal, and tell them the difference that God has made in your life. Walk with them, helping to carry their burdens (as others in God’s family have carried yours). Cry with them and laugh with them. Share the joy that you have found in following Jesus. Then, once they understand that following Jesus is such a better way of life than trying to get by without Him, throw a party and celebrate their decision to step into their new lives!