Often when people visit churches they are either impressed or not impressed with whatever welcome they receive or don’t receive. I’ve heard of people visiting a church in which no one talked to them at all. I’ll never forget the first time we visited a church in which we served for some years. A lady greeted me at the door with a big smile and hug (she’s a hugger). I think she and her husband are still serving at that church. I think of her with a smile.
Jesus received sinners and ate with them. That was to say, especially in that culture and time, he befriended them, and in the eyes of many would then be associated with them. In the stories in which he ate with the Pharisees, it is out of other motives that they are eating with him. Not because they were open to him, and to the God who sent him.
Do people feel welcomed in our company? If we’re following Jesus we have the Spirit to help them begin to feel welcome. This is about relationships, breaking the ice with each other, so that others might come to know Jesus, or know him better, along with us, we getting to know each other in this mix as well.
It is sad when churches divide up into groups along secondary matters such as worldly politics, or just plain cliquishness. There are some we may bond more with, becoming closer friends. But we need to go out of our way to include everyone, to keep each other feeling welcomed and loved, yes in spite of ourselves at times, in spite of each other.
All of this an ongoing discipline, and even delight in our following of Jesus together for the world.