I don’t know what the vision statement of the church I grew up in was, but if I were to guess based on the rapture movies they used to show, it’d be something like:
We exist to scare the hell out of everyone.
Yes, I had nightmares about missing the rapture, heads being chopped off, accidentally getting the mark of the beast, and a variety of other apocalyptic terrors.
And there were a number of times when, coming home from school and finding no evidence of family members, I’d panic and assume the worst: I had missed the rapture. For the next few minutes (until my mom came back from visiting with a friend), I’d frantically devise my ridiculous escape and survival plan.
The guest evangelist who came and preached about the evils of Amy Grant had me convinced that there would be no place at Heaven’s table reserved for me.
A few years earlier, when I was 9 years old, my grandparents got into a fight with my parents. They were upset about how my parents disciplined me and my siblings. The discipline in question? No dessert after dinner.
My grandparents blew up and told us to leave. And that was it. Even after multiple attempts by my dad to smooth things over, my grandparents—his parents—wanted nothing to do with him or us. No more family dinners. No more birthday gifts. No more Christmas together. I didn’t see or hear from them again. My place at their table was gone, forever.
You can see how I’ve acquired a certain level of anxiety about my place at the table. The impression I got from church was, “If you mess up, you will most likely no longer have a place at the table. God, the angry judge, will lay down the law and tell you to leave. And that will be it.”
I’m so thankful for a much more generous view of the family of God that I have today. I’m no longer having nightmares about heads rolling and accidentally taking the mark of the beast.
I am secure, confident, assured that my place at the table is saved and it is safe.
Perhaps the most vivid expression of the Gospel in story-form is the parable of the Prodigal Son. In this story, we see a loving Father who isn’t removing places at the table because of the sins and failings of his children, but rather, he is saving them and keeping them safe.
The Father’s house is a safe place for prodigals.
He has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. You must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it. Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News. —Colossians 1.22, 23 NLT
Don’t drift from the ASSURANCE you received. What assurance are we to stick with?
That we’ve been brought into his presence—that we’re holy and blameless as we stand before him without a single fault. That we have a place at the table, and this is not our doing. It’s all Him. The blood of Jesus made, makes, and continues to make us holy.
And so we can be secure, confident, assured that our place at the table is saved and it is safe.
When I was a kid, my church worked hard to scare the hell out of us…
Today, I’m working hard persuading the goodness of God into you.
You have a place at the table.
ADDITIONAL POSTS IN THIS WEEK’S SERIES: