Emma had just turned four years old when she attended the first wedding she’d ever seen. Emma is one of Anna’s and my grandchildren and, like all grandparents, I love to tell stories about our grandkids. Emma had been on the church campus many times, but this was the first time she’d seen it decorated for a wedding. There were lit candelabra, a runner down the aisle, and garlands of flowers everywhere. The place looked really beautiful, and Emma, who is very into “girly” things, was astounded by the marvel of it all. When the bridesmaids came in, she whispered excitedly to her mom, our daughter Christa, “Look! The flowers are the same as their dresses!” When the bride entered, for Emma, it was like the Second Coming.
So her mom and her daddy (our son-in-law, Doug) were surprised when Emma was so quiet in the backseat of the car on the way home. Then, all of a sudden, she blurted out, “Well, there’s certainly not going to be any kissing at my wedding.” Christa turned around to face her daughter and asked, “Emma, why not?”
“Because the day I marry my boy, I’ll have on a long, beautiful white dress, and a long, beautiful white veil,” said Emma, “and I don’t want to get my lipstick smudged or get it on my dress or veil.”
Doug and Christa chuckled, thinking that was the end of it, but a few minutes later, as they pulled into their driveway, Emma announced, “Well, maybe the day I marry my boy, I will let my boy kiss me, because that day, I’ll wear Chapstick.”
I don’t know what went on in this little girl’s mind that occasioned her reassessment, but it probably had nothing to do with romance since she was only four years old. I believe it had to do with her sense that kissing was right at a wedding—that weddings have to do with love, with commitment, and with embrace—and that meant her doing whatever was necessary to allow the right thing to be done.
I share that precious story because, in its own way, it mirrors an attitude often found in the Body of Christ in our approach to one another, which then affects our approach to inviting people to come to faith in Jesus. The Body of Christ in the evangelical community incorporates a broad spectrum of all the people who know the Lord and are committed to Him. There are evangelical Catholics, evangelical Baptists, evangelical Pentecostals, even evangelical Evangelicals! Yet in the middle of all those people who believe the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ by the Blood of the Cross, and who believe that the Bible is the Word of God, there is a difference in their approach to life in the Spirit, and sometimes also in their worship expressions or prayer expressions.
So, depending upon what part of the Body of Christ influenced our coming to know Jesus, we will each tend to carry with us that approach. This, in and of itself, is not bad, because all of them proclaim Jesus as Savior and focus on the Word of God, however, there is one problem. Like Emma’s feelings about the wedding, there are some who don’t want to “kiss” each other because they fear it will smudge the purity of their doctrine, liturgy, or hermeneutical approach, that is, their interpretation of the Bible.
Yet the Lord wants to have a wedding! He wants us to be driven by the passion of seeing Him free to multiply life through the Church, and not to be so preoccupied with ourselves or how that makes us look. While we’ve been called to the “Highway of Holiness” (Is. 35:8), holiness is not keeping lipstick off your veil or not smudging your gown. Neither is it steering clear of people in the world because they might make us dirty. It’s recognizing that our righteousness is not produced by our own actions but begotten by the glory of the presence of God—unsmudgeable by things around us, as long as we walk in His way, His love, His life, and His truth.
Hearing God’s Trumpet Call
One of the most profound places where the proximity and openness with which we relate to one another as evangelical believers comes into play is when we look at the Church’s relationship to Israel and, specifically, the relationship between Christians and Jews, as well as between Gentile and Jewish believers.
For more than three decades, the context of my life was localized at The Church On The Way. It is still where I attend, as well as where I occasionally speak. Over the years, I have watched a lot happen. There are 400,000 Jews within a 25-mile radius of the church. Among the 75,000 decisions made for Christ at The Church On The Way, I know that hundreds have been made by Jews, although we have never separated the Jewish segment of our congregation from the rest.
It might be a surprise to learn that during those years, I never asked anyone to “become a Christian” when I gave an invitation. I never said I wasn’t asking that; I think most Gentile Christians presume that was what I was doing because they know I am not ashamed to be called that. The reason I didn’t use those words was because I knew that there were always Jews who came to our church—they might be brought by people with whom they work, or by other Jews, perhaps relatives. In the Jewish mindset, “becoming a Christian” means something it doesn’t meant to the average Gentile. While for Gentiles, it is an issue of faith, to a Jew, it can seem to be an issue of sacrificing one’s individuality, heritage, and ethnicity.
When inviting people to receive Jesus, I ask them to open their heart to the living Son of God. I don’t bother to call Him Yeshua, because it isn’t necessary in this culture to do that, though I understand the term and fully accept its use in many environments. I ask people to open their hearts to Jesus, the Son of God—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—Who was sent by His Father God to die on the Cross for our sin and Who rose from the dead. He is the Lord. I’ll ask people to open their hearts to the love of God in Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Many times, I have said it this way: “If you’ll open your heart to Him, I want to invite you to do that, and to do it this way, because He wants to come into your life. God so loved the world that He gave His Son, Jesus. That’s how the love of God enters. It comes in a package named Jesus, and you open to Jesus.” And people have received Jesus by the thousands, many of them Jews.
I believe that today, the Lord is calling Gentiles and Jews in Christ to join together on a highway; not a paved highway going to a marvelous city with the Name of the Lord on it, but a highway of purpose—to a place in an era in which God is doing something very profound in the world today. And that necessitates an ever-increasing, deepening sensitivity and awareness in His Church as to what He is doing with His people, the Jews.
And as we in the Body of Christ move forward collectively, by God’s grace, to hear His trumpet call and respond to His profound breakthrough in Israel and among the Jews, there is yet a higher call for the Church. That is the Spirit’s call to recognize that we are one, and to, as Hebrews 12:1 admonishes, “lay aside every weight” of fear or doubt about others in the Body who are different than we are in their terminology or expression—as well as to give space for the creative God to do the very different things He does among His people.
Loved one, the wedding isn’t about me—or about you; the wedding is about Jesus bringing His Church, His Bride, together. It is about our recognizing, as little Emma did, that weddings have to do with love, commitment, and embrace—about being open enough to do whatever is necessary in order for the right thing to be done.
Copyright 2006, 2014 by Jack W. Hayford, Jack Hayford Ministries