One thing my mom taught me when I was growing up in the 70’s in America was not to invite myself over to others’ houses. I expect the reason for this was so as not to put the potential host in a bad position – a position of choosing to either reject my request or allow me to intrude on their plans for the evening. If my request was accepted, my friend’s mother may have to go out of her way to accommodate me by changing her original plans. If your friend or acquaintance wants to invite you over, he or she will – so goes the traditional thinking.
This seems to make good sense. But I don’t think the underlying assumption – that if your friend or acquaintance wants you to come over, he will invite you himself – is necessarily true. Sometimes people may not know it is an option for you to come over – they might think that you wouldn’t want to or that you might be too busy. They may not have ever thought of inviting you over for whatever reason. They might be shy. They might be busy and haven’t taken the time to plan for you to come over. But if you ask, they may be happy for you to come over. They might be pleasantly surprised by your self-invitation.
If God did not exist, it might not be all that important for you to go over to the house of an acquaintance or friend uninvited. But since God lives in you (assuming you are a believer), it may be very, very important for the future of your acquaintance or friend for you to go over to his house. And this may only happen, if you invite yourself.
As followers of Jesus, we are to … yep, that’s right, follow Jesus. Novel concept. So let’s see if our Master ever invited himself over to anyone’s house.
GOD INVITED HIMSELF INTO OUR WORLD
The first example I can think of is that He invited Himself into this world without being asked. He foretold His own coming when He spoke to that serpent the devil in the Garden of Eden and said, “… I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” And when He brought this to pass, He invited Himself into Mary’s physical body without even asking. This is the ultimate intrusion. Much worse than inviting yourself over to someone’s house. Nine months of carrying an extra person, possibly several months of throwing-up, and finally, once the end is in sight, pain in childbirth.
The angel Gabriel, sent by God, came to Mary and told her she was highly favored and that God was with her. Gabriel told her that she would become pregnant and have a son, and that she was to call him Jesus. Mary asked how this could happen. And Gabriel explained that the Holy Spirit would come on her and the power of the Most High would overshadow her. Did our compassionate, kind, loving God wait for Mary to ask Him to impregnate her and invite Him into her body. No. He told her that it was going to happen and tried to let her know that it would be okay. He told her not to be afraid and told her that God liked her a lot (she was highly favored). He kindly warned her of her future. Although God did not ask, Mary agreed when she said, “May it be to me as you have said.” I think Mary was pleasantly surprised that God wanted to put His Son inside her, and probably a little fearful, too.
JESUS INVITED HIMSELF OVER TO ZACCHAEUS’ HOUSE
The next example I will use is Zacchaeus. You know the song: “Zacchaeus was a wee, little man, a wee little man was he.” Skipping to the important part, “And Jesus said, ‘Zacchaeus, you come down. For I’m going to your house today.'” That sounds like Jesus just disobeyed your mom and invited Himself over. He didn’t wait for Zacchaeus to invite Him. He knew Zacchaeus needed Him, and so He invited himself over.
The Scripture is even stronger on this point than the song: “When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.’ So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.” Zacchaeus was just like Mary, once God invited Himself in (in Mary’s case) or over (in Zacchaeus’s case), they both accepted the self-invitation.
JESUS INTENTIONALLY HUNG AROUND SINNERS
Now in the next example of Jesus’ disciple Matthew, I cannot be certain that Jesus invited himself over for dinner, but He may have. The Scripture does not tell us. But it definitely provides an example of the over-reaching principle that I am attempting to teach. You will have to read on further to find out what it is.
Matthew 2:14-17 tells the story: As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the “sinners” and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Perhaps Jesus did invite himself over. The text doesn’t say. But we do know that Jesus was the initiator, and we know that Jesus did go to Matthew’s house and have dinner with “sinners.” He went to someone else’s turf so he could be around the sick.
JESUS TOLD HIS DISCIPLES TO INVITE THEMSELVES INTO HOMES
The final example I will use from Scripture comes from Matthew 10, a passage greatly cited in organic church books for the principle of finding a person of peace. Luke 10 is also cited for the same principle, In Matthew 10, Jesus sent out the twelve disciples to towns and villages across Israel. He said to preach this message:
‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep. Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave. As you enter the home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town.
That sounds like a self-invite to me. Again, Jesus has not heeded the instructions of mothers across America. He instructed his disciples to go to towns and villages across the country and invite themselves into the homes of worthy persons and reside with them until leaving town. If the disciples were not accepted, they were to shake the dust off their feet when they left that home or town.
DISREGARD YOUR MOTHER’S CULTURAL WISDOM WHEN SHARING THE GOSPEL
This example goes against the common wisdom of mothers across America to an even greater degree than the others cited above because Jesus instructed the disciples to do this en masse – among strangers. And even worse, he did not say, “Invite yourself over for dinner.” Rather, he said, “Invite yourself to stay at these strangers’ houses until you leave their town.” Talk about intrusive. It is not as intrusive as what God did to Mary when he impregnated her, but it is definitely more intrusive than inviting yourself over to a friend’s house for dinner.
So what is the point of all of this? Currently, the church in America is in transition. Many Americans that are not following God (pre-believers) are not attracted to the attractional model of church. Although the attractional model (come to church and get saved) still works somewhat, it is not working like it used to. Some people are now discussing the incarnational model (we take Jesus to them, just like Jesus did for us when He became human). All of the examples mentioned above are examples of the incarnational model. Jesus and the Father have demonstrated to us through the Scripture how to take the gospel to others. We must take it to the lost, rather than wait inside a building used for church for the lost to come to us. Although Jesus did speak in synagogues, much of his ministry occurred outside of the synagogue – in the great outdoors, in the marketplace, or in homes. We would be wise to follow His example.
Jesus, when he came to planet Earth, gave up his power as God, and came to us in human form – like Keanu Reeves’ character in The Day the Earth Stood Still. Jesus came onto our turf. We need to be bold like Him and take His message onto the turf of the lost. When we get off our turf and onto others’, He will empower us to demonstrate the gospel just like He did in Matthew 10.
So if you want to be like Jesus, don’t take your mother’s advice. Start inviting yourself over to the homes of the lost and new believers. Be bold. Obey Jesus and share His message with those in your circles and those outside your circles of influence. Leave your turf regularly. Be a part of kingdom expansion. Your self-invite could make a big difference. Your friends and acquaintances may even be glad you invited yourself over.