“Someone gave a great dinner and invited many. At the time for the dinner he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’ But they all alike began to make excuses.…Then the owner of the house became angry and said to his slave, ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’” (Luke 14)

Are we willing to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and to go out, as he said in the Great Commission, into all the world to preach the gospel of peace to all men and women (Matt. 28:18–20)?

Will we have the faith and courage to be the witness who is a peacemaker, who doesn’t succumb to hatred? The witness who sees beyond left and right, race, occupation, and social status – who ignores the many barriers people create, even those professing to be followers of Christ? For “Whoever says, ‘I am in the light,’ while hating a brother or sister, is still in the darkness” (1 John 2:9). Will we be the witness who stands with his or her fellow sinners in their torment and can say, as Jesus did, “Neither do I condemn you” – but who also has the truthfulness to address sin clearly and say, “Go your way, and from now on do not sin again” (John 8:11)?

We are told that the truth will set you free, and that we are to speak God’s truth to our times as the salt of the earth and not cave in to the pressures of popular opinion.

In a world in which success – even among believers – is based on accumulation of riches and achieving status, Jesus taught us to surrender and to take up our cross. As his followers we aren’t promised earthly security. Instead we are told, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world” (1 John 2:15).

Looking at the people Jesus associated with, are we able to see the spark of God in all people – “the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame”– whom the Master invites to the banquet?

The apostle Paul says that even if we have all the attributes of the greatest of saints, but don’t have Jesus’ love in our hearts, it’s all absolutely worthless (1 Cor. 13). Will we find that Jesus’ condemnation of the religious of his time might apply to us? “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them” (Matt. 23:13).

In “The Hound of Heaven,” English poet Francis Thompson speaks of how we are all running from God. Considered one of the greatest of Christian poets, Thompson was a troubled man himself, battling addiction, poverty, and depression throughout his adult life, which is perhaps why his poem is as poignant as it is:

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the midst of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter. . .
. . . From those strong Feet
that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbéd pace,

Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat—and a Voice beat
More instant than the Feet—
“All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.”

In what ways are we, the prodigal son or daughter, running from this invitation to the feast of the kingdom of heaven? After the crucifixion, the apostles were scared, full of fear and uncertainty, like us in many ways. Like them we need a new Pentecost today, where God’s spirit fills our hearts and actions so we can be his witnesses.

We were never promised a smooth road, but have the assurance that “if God is for us, no one can be against us.” Paul writes in Ephesians 6: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

Onward, Christian soldiers.