By Michael E. Brooks
“But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth'” (Matthew 22:11-13 NKJV).
It is quite common in Bangladesh to have neighbors come to us at major Islamic holidays and ask for donations to help them celebrate. It is also common for the same people to come back at Christmas and ask for help that they may celebrate it with their Christian neighbors. I have always found this to be paradoxical and interesting.
But is it really any different from what happens at Christmas time in so-called “Christian nations?” Some people who otherwise have no interest in or time for organized religion will attend worship services at this particular season. They will go throughout the year without thought or mention of Jesus but at this time will talk about the “real meaning of Christmas.” I find this paradoxical as well.
Let me state that I have no intention of judging the heart, sincerity, or intentions of others. I have previously stated many times that if someone only thinks of Jesus or attends worship assemblies one time per year, I am extremely thankful for that one time. At least, there may be opportunity to reach such a person on that occasion with the urgency and importance of spiritual things. One time may lead them to greater involvement and more committed faith in the future.
It is clear, however, that Jesus requires more than an occasional thought or memorial celebration from those who would follow him.
His parable of the king’s son’s wedding in Matthew 22 is explicit. In this story the king was offended by honored guests who made light of the occasion and refused to come. In response, he destroyed their city and then invited the common people from the highways and byways of the community. These people, who would never in normal circumstances be allowed to attend such an occasion, were delighted and came in great numbers.
One of them however came improperly dressed, not wearing a wedding garment. The king rebuked him and had him removed from the feast and punished severely. The lesson is plain. The king’s gracious invitation was not license to behave without regard for the nature of the event. The prince’s wedding was still an occasion of dignity and honor, regardless of the identity of the guests.
We are chosen, saved, and blessed by God because of his love and grace. That does not relieve us, however, of responsibility. Just showing up, on our terms, at his feast is not enough. His invitation includes duties of the guests. There is a dress code (Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:12-14) to which we must submit, just as did the king’s guests. There are proper behaviors (Matthew 7:21; 10:37-38; 16:24) which all disciples must observe and do.
Anyone who would honor Jesus must do so on his terms, in the ways described and mandated in his word. These include obedience to the gospel (2 Thessalonians 1:8), denial of self (Matthew 16:24), and dedicated service to God and others (Philippians 2:1-5).
Let us beware of attending God’s great feast unprepared and improperly dressed.
By Michael E. Brooks