It signaled a seismic shift in world history, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation” (Gen. 12:1-2). With those words, God called his people— the children of Abraham—out of the world. The rest of the Old Testament chronicles the nation’s struggle for righteousness.
God’s chosen nation was called Israel and it faced many trials. It endured slavery, rebellion, listlessness, and starvation. But God sustained them. In time the nation sinned against God by trusting in false gods, idols, and even their own strength. They ignored God’s plea, “Be holy, for I am holy” (Lev. 19:2). After a time of discipline in foreign lands, God restored a fire-refined remnant back to Israel. They rebuilt their society, the temple, and their relationship with God. They cut off the false gods and idols, but many went too far. In an effort to be holy, they forgot to be a blessing.
By the first century the Pharisaic subculture within the nation gained a strong foothold. The name, Pharisee, comes from parush meaning “separated ones,” and that captures their exclusive, self-righteous attitudes. Once Simon, a Pharisee, invited Jesus to dinner (Luke 7:36-50). While they ate, a woman known in the city as a sinner wetted Jesus’ feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. Then she anointed his feet with oil. Simon watched in horror and said within himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner” (Luke 7:39).
How could a man identifying himself as a child of God demonstrate such contempt, prejudice, and indifference toward this broken woman? Jesus used the incident to show salvation is for everyone. The Pharisees thought salvation was for the Clean, the Perfect, the Smooth, and the Popular. But Jesus called those as well as the Dirty, Imperfect, Rough, and Unpopular. As Paul exclaimed, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). The Pharisees and other Jewish leaders desperately needed to learn this lesson, and some Christians need to learn it today. In churches throughout the world invisible doors separate the members from the undesirables. The front doors are always open, and greeters smile as they welcome visitors with a handshake. But members often hide behind invisible doors and wait to see if the visitors or new members are worthy to be welcomed into the inner sanctum. For the Jews, the invisible doors kept the Gentiles and foreigners at bay. In the church, the invisible doors keep out tattoos, stale cigarette odors, shabby clothes, yellow teeth, and oily hair. James said, “You pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing…while you say to the poor man, ‘Stand over there’” (Jas. 2:1-3).
But when Jesus built his church, there were no invisible doors. He welcomed everyone from the choicest of society to the discarded and ignored. The simple fact is everyone needs Jesus, and the church ought to work hard to make everyone know they are wanted and welcome.
As the world continues to divide and splinter over prejudice and hate, the church must shatter the invisible doors and unite everyone under the banner of Christ.