Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. And there was a man called Zaccheus; he was a chief tax collector [a superintendent to whom others reported], and he was rich. Zaccheus was trying to see who Jesus was, but he could not see because of the crowd, for he was short in stature. So he ran on ahead [of the crowd] and climbed up in a sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass through that way. When Jesus reached the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” So Zaccheus hurried and came down, and welcomed Jesus with joy. When the people saw it, they all began muttering [in discontent], “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a [notorious] sinner.” Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, “See, Lord, I am [now] giving half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone out of anything, I will give back four times as much.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this household, because he, too, is a [spiritual] son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

I have this weird habit of turning every song into my very own movie clip-day dream.. starring me – of course lol.

I remember when Kanye’s ‘Clique’ first came out and with it came day dreams of me and my ‘clique’ walking into a party in slow-mo, parting the crowd as we went, people staring and wondering who the heck we were and where I’d bought those killer heels.

Unfortunately two problems existed with this ‘movie’: I do not have the kinds of friends who would assist me in acting this out in reality, and I am that girl most likely to fall flat on her face when trying to attract attention to herself lol.

But you know, just thinking about it affirms to me how much cliques matter in our culture. Whether it’s the kids who went to that private high school together, or the ‘cool kids’, or the jocks, or the geeks, or the kids who were raised in church, or the goths, there’s something about having a distinct set of people around you who – for lack of better words – match you, that also in some weird way elevate you, isn’t there? And the feeling of being part of something more than just you – there’s nothing like it. Cliques are actually evidence that all of humanity has an innate desire to belong.

How is it then that a sense of belonging can be one of the hardest things to find?

“You Can’t Sit With Us”

If everyone wants to belong to something, you’d think there’d be a ton of great places to fit in. But the thing about cliques are that most of them require a certain set of criteria that not everyone or just anyone can fit into. It’s like a dozen puzzles with a thousand different pieces, but you can’t fit any piece just anywhere – it has to be fit in the right spot in the right puzzle. With cliques there is always a pervasive ‘you can’t sit with us’ mentality.

You have to play sports to be a jock. You have to like art and actually be good at it to be one of the artsy kids. You have to have the right number of followers and retweets and favorites to be in the Cool Kids Club. In our culture you have to dress a certain way or talk a certain way or be able to afford certain things to belong in one social group or the other.

And haven’t we come to believe the same about Christianity? Haven’t we (at least at some point) believed that there are certain requirements – a checklist of righteous acts and spiritual platitudes – that we must do to truly belong to this Christian Clique? With Christianity it can seem like you have to dress a certain way, and say certain things, or read certain books just to truly belong. Sometimes religion can even feel like a building with a bright sign on the outside stating ‘Righteous Only’, and a quick look in the mirror will tell you that you will never make the cut. You don’t speak in tongues or know the words to the worship music (“You’ve never heard Oceans??? !!*GASP*”). You don’t know how to pray and you’ve never fasted a day in your life. In fact, maybe your life is completely contrary to everything you’ve ever heard this Christianity thing is about and you think there’s no way you’d ever fit in.

I grew up in a Christian home and I still felt that way at a point in my life. I looked at who I was and what I believed and the type of person I wanted to be, and it just didn’t fit in with the religious messages I was getting. I would never be perfect. I would never always choose the right thing, not even when I tried my hardest. I didn’t want to not be friends with people who didn’t believe what I did or exclude people who didn’t fit into that supposedly limited ‘Christian Clique’ profile. And so during this time I stopped going to church. I chose ‘spirituality’ over Christianity, and while I believed in God, I wasn’t very interested in all the rules and regulations that supposedly came with Him. I couldn’t really be down with this concept of religious exclusion because I myself had spent a huge part of my life feeling excluded, and it didn’t feel very good.

Then I met this man named Jesus…

His life plays out like your typical high school romcom: Secretly he was royalty, an heir to a kingdom – and yet was perceived to be an outcast, with nothing particularly attractive about him. He wasn’t a A-student, or a top official in student government. He didn’t sport the latest fashions or come from money. He wasn’t a social jock or a social activist. And yet everyone wanted to know him. Everyone wanted to be around him. People flocked to him like crazy – and for no apparent reason either!

Why was that???

It’s because Jesus’ clique didn’t have a code. There was no requirement list or set of standards you had to reach to be ‘in’ with him. No secret handshake or due payment. You didn’t have to wear pink on Wednesdays or spend all your money on a cool wardrobe to fit in. Jesus rolled with fishermen, and religious leaders. His best friends were tax collectors and prostitutes. He shared a bread bowl with the very man who would hand him over to be crucified. He had dinner with anyone who would invite him to eat.

So when I met this Jesus, as messed up and imperfect as I was – as I STILL am till this very day – and he offered me a seat at his table when so many others told me I didn’t make the cut at theirs, I took it. When someone that powerful and influential invites you to dinner, you take the invite and ask why later!

But get this – the WHY is so very simple, and it’s found in the very essence of a Bible verse most of us know so well:

 For God so LOVED the world, that He gave His One and ONLY son, that WHOSEVER believes in him shall have eternal life. (John 3:16)

 Because of Love…Whosever Will May Come

If Jesus were a high school senior or a college Quarterback, that would be on the back of his letter jacket and hanging above his lunch table – ‘whosever will may come.’ Jesus doesn’t only want to commune with the people who know the Bible by heart or pray 3 hours a day. Jesus doesn’t care where you’ve been or what you’ve done, he just really wants to hang with you. One of the greatest things about Jesus is that he doesn’t just want people who think they’re cool at his table – he wants the ones who just simply want to be there.

The only requirement for a seat at Jesus’ table – or better yet, his presence at yours – is an invite.

In understanding this truth, suddenly this idea of a Christian clique didn’t seem so formidable. In actually communing with Jesus, I found all preconceived notions of who he was to be false. His heart was not to exclude anyone, but to have everyone come in and dine with him. What I once thought was a tiny exclusive Christian circle was an open space filled with all kinds of people simply seeking – and always finding. Suddenly Christianity was something I wanted to be an actual part of, and as I kept returning to his table to commune, my life was completely changed in a way I still can’t quite understand, but completely for the better.

At his table I have found peace, and joy, and freedom like you couldn’t imagine.

And he has that for you too.

This is a message that we do not hear enough of, but might be the single most important one you will hear this year, so read the following carefully (and repeatedly if need be):

 Life is not a movie, Christianity is not a high school lunch table, Jesus is not your stereotypical jock, and there is a space for you at his table.

 Come feast.  🙂