Steam rises from the mug, winding around an invisible vertical line in random and beautiful ways, filling the air with the lighter scent of green tea and that indescribable smell of heat. I wrap my fingers through the handle and around the body of the cup, feeling the transmission of swollen molecules through the ceramic exterior into my skin like invading armies on a march. I welcome it. I invite them to come and warm my hands, traveling down to the arterial intersection in my wrist and as the blood there is heated it spreads throughout my body and relaxes the ducts and chutes that are my circulatory system. I invite it, and it calms me in the early morning hours as I simultaneously invite God to speak and open my eyes to His presence.
It is all about invitation. Come. Welcome. Open.
I fear that many of us miss out on the goodness of formation into Christlikeness because we aren't geared to view the blatant invitations in this life of following Jesus. Throughout His life Jesus issues these invitations, and the way we receive them changes everything:
"Seek first the kingdom of God..." is written in the imperative (language of command) but what if it isn't a command in the military sense (i.e. "You'd better seek the Kingdom or else!") but instead an imperative driven by invitation - "Here, come and seek the Kingdom, I'm inviting you to do this."?
"Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near..." is written in the imperative but since "repent" literally means "to change your mind" or "to think about your thinking" (thanks Dallas Willard), it rings more as an invitation than a command - "Did you know you could think differently about life because the kingdom is near? Come, come and think differently about what God may want for the world..."
We can see the fruit of this in the way we built fences and boundaries around our beliefs and our churches. We tightly construct who is in and who is out, theologically, and go to war in culture maintaining those boundaries. Please hear me, I'm not saying there aren't boundaries or lines that need to be drawn from time to time, I'm simply saying we're fighting the wrong kind of war. In fact, I think the war metaphor is wrong because there's nothing invitational about war - it's all about conquering.
Instead, this is my thought:
If we lived our life as if we are in possession of an invitation from Christ, in a gilded envelope inscribed with our names, we live life with an irresistible power that will transform the world.
We can get beyond the dualistic thinking that kills our souls and our chances for true community, that creates partisan politics and must have an enemy in order to work. Has anyone ever thought of what a presidential campaign would look like if everyone in it took seriously the command to "love their enemies" or "love their neighbor as themselves"? The invitation changes that, not another war of ideas or data, the invitation to repent - politically and theologically.
These are the invitations from Jesus to a world that fits our longing - that matches the warm cup in the morning, lifting our souls and spirits and granting hope where before there was only the dark chasm of "either/or".
This is a life lived in-between, a life lived in a place of tension - and yet it's the life we're invited to by the One who was God With Us. Look into your hands - are you in possession of an invitation? What is Christ inviting you to know today?
Abiding peace regardless of situation.
Security in being his beloved regardless of people criticizing your positions.
Ability to love someone who just as well see you drop dead.
In the sage words of Dallas Willard, "Do we know how good it could be to do what Jesus says?" That is a warm cup, warm blood, and life eternal. Come Lord Jesus.