“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost” (Isaiah 55:1).
Last Fall, I spent a bit of time working with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, spending time with college students on campuses across the North Shore of Massachusetts. One night, I drove out to Andover to meet with a few girls who had heard about InterVarsity and wanted to bring it to their campus. We (3 InterVarsity staffers and I) were all amazed at how the Lord so completely blessed that meeting, stirring in the hearts of the girls that showed up, as well as exceeding any expectations we had in terms of turn-out and vision.
As we sat down with the girls last night to go through Luke 14, the Parable of the Wedding Feast and the Great Banquet, our prayer was that the Lord would stir and shape within all of us how to move forth in being a missional community founded upon the love of Jesus Christ. Throughout our inquiry I continued to be struck by one word–compel.
After inviting friends, all of whom supplied some sort of excuse as to why they could not attend the feast that was ready, the master told his servant to “Go out quickly to the streets and the lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.” The result? Not only were the invitations accepted, there was still space! So the master said to his servant to, ”Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.”
It is in that word compel that I am so moved. What does it look like to be compelling or to give an invitation that is compelling? Ἀναγκάζω (anankazō) is the word used; it is an aorist imperative to go out and necessitate, compel, drive to, and constrain anyone on the highway or in the hedges to come to the banquet because the master wants his house to be filled. I suppose I was struck by this verse because the command is two fold; the servant must go out in order to find guests and he must also necessitate, constrain, and compel their acceptance. The servant must expend energy both by going out and searching, but he must also prevail upon those he finds with an earnest and urgent invitation that cannot be rejected or ignored. Regardless of their appearance, poverty, ignorance, or reputation, the master is earnest in his desire to have his table filled.
The reality of this parable in our life lies in how perfectly the Kingdom of Heaven is embodied. Our Father God has prepared a feast that became ready for all eternity in Christ’s declaration, “It is finished.” The bread and the wine are ready to be taken by those who will be constrained and compelled by the Spirit to accept the invitation. Christ commands his followers to go out and make disciples of all nations, to be fishers of men, to love the Lord their God with all their heart with all their soul, and with all their strength and to love their neighbor as themselves. It is in this holistic love that the servants of the Lord of Heaven and Earth are to go out and find strangers, travelers, poor, needy, and urge them to come in, press upon them the redemptive salvation of the Gospel that is not for the righteous, but the sinners, and use all means necessary to bring them to the banquet regardless of their situation. The invitation and command are unconditional in that they are in no way contingent upon our perfection, our striving, our righteousness, or in what we can give to God, but they are conditional in that they are contingent upon our acceptance despite our imperfection, our striving, our unrighteousness, or our poverty before God. In Christ’s death and resurrection, we have a compelling invitation to come to the table of the Lord because it is in Christ’s love that our acceptance is necessitated. “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died” (2 Corinthians 5:14).
Where does this compelling invitation leave us? Well, I, for one, am fully convinced and even more overwhelmed by the magnitude of Christ’s love. I’m even more convinced and in awe of this story that Creator God, author of all life, has welcomed us into through the perfect love of His Son, Jesus Christ. In Christ, we are a new Creation and in Christ’s perfect and compelling love, we have a reality of right relationship established, bringing us into the family of God and welcoming us to sit down at His table. Through that compelling invitation, we are welcomed to experience life in His rest, rather than life lived out of desperation, necessity, anxiety, or emptiness. The Creator of all life and the Author and Perfecter of that life has placed a feast before us, imbuing us with His spirit that we might delight in every aspect of that feast. I’m convinced that His compelling invitation is to a feast that is filled to overflowing with the perfect fellowship only God can give.
That perfect and compelling love invites us to, “Be still and know that He is God.” Because of that love, we are brought into a freedom and an abundance that we might love the people around us by relying on His love for them. His compelling invitation transforms our entire reality so that we cannot help but see His redeemed and restored Creation. I pray that His invitation compels us to respond with the grace, humility, freedom, and love we have received from Him, so that the invitation is accepted into actuality and so that we might continue to know and rest in His perfect abundance.
“The Spirit and the Bride say,“Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price” (Revelation 22:17).
Catherine Fields, Summer Intern & Writer in Residence
This summer we are pleased to have Catherine Fields joining us as a Writer in Residence with The SoulCare Project. Catherine was born and raised in Chattanooga, TN, earned her B.A. of Liberal Arts from St. John’s College in Annapolis, MD, and is currently a Pierce Fellow in graduate school at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, MA, pursuing a Masters of Divinity and a Master of Arts in Spiritual Formation.