by Emily Van Gent

“Who?” is a question I find myself asking often.

Who is going to be there? Who did that? Who is our target audience? Who is a part of that? Who is funding this? Who is leading that? Who is my friend? Who can I trust? Who am I? Who is for me?

People matter to us. There will be times that I wait to accept or decline an invitation until I know who is going to be there. There are specific things that I only tell certain people, whom I trust. Often times we will go out of our way to be with someone we love, or to avoid someone we don’t want to be around. People influence us. They can make us feel at home, or uncomfortable, loved or excluded.

Good or bad, society has naturally created labels and categories that people fit under and identify with. Low-income, middle class, mother, father, sister, brother, child, liberal, conservative, senior citizen, young adult, pastor, leader, employed, retired, missionary, mentally disabled, educated, depressed, homeless, wealthy, the list goes on. Often we use these labels as tools to measure how “successful” we are compared to those around us. The church tends to pride itself by using the phrase, “everyone is welcome here”. But I think if we get really honest with ourselves and we look at the American church, we can see that we have taken these labels and used them to qualify or disqualify people from being a part of the Kingdom of God.

Jesus talks a lot about the Kingdom of God in the New Testament, and if I am honest I probably have more questions than answers. But this I know to be true, we look at scriptures and we see Jesus welcoming the unlikely, the misfits, the labeled people into the Kingdom of God. In fact, from Genesis to Revelation we see God calling ALL people to Himself and to His glory – which is exactly what the Kingdom of God is, God’s glory on display.

The crazy thing about this upside-down, backward Kingdom is that not only are all people invited into it, but they are invited to participate in it. The Kingdom of God holds an active invitation. Jesus steps in, in the midst of our mess and brokenness. He comes into our dirt and our darkness, he doesn’t take us out of our circumstances but he wipes the dust off our eyes so that we can see Him and see that we are actually placed in the center of his love and kindness. And it’s there, fully immersed in the love of our Father, completely convinced of His goodness and His sovereignty that God leans in and says, “now go take this to the ends of the earth.”

God actually chooses us to be his agents of love to all people. I love that God is calling all of us; all nations, all tribes, all tongues, all social classes, all genders, all job titles to seek first the Kingdom.

Let’s look at some of the people God used in scripture:

  • Abraham -Was old.
  • Elijah – Was suicidal.
  • Joseph – Was abused.
  • Job – Went bankrupt.
  • Moses – Had a speech problem.
  • Gideon – Was afraid.
  • Jonah – Disobeyed.
  • Samson – Was a womanizer.
  • Rahab – Was a prostitute.
  • Samaritan Woman – Divorced.
  • Noah – Was a Drunk.
  • Jeremiah – Was young.
  • Jacob – Was a cheater.
  • David – Was a murderer.
  • Jonah – Ran from God.
  • Naomi – Was a widow.
  • Peter – Denied Christ three times
  • Martha – Worried about everything.
  • Zacchaeus – Was small and money hungry.
  • The Disciples – Fell asleep while praying.
  • Paul – A Pharisee who persecuted Christians before becoming one.

Do you relate to any of these labels? I know I do. So often I get in my own head and count the reasons why I am not suited to do God’s work, or even why I am not worthy of His love.

So, we come back to the question we started with.

Who? Who is included in the Kingdom of God?

So, my friend, YOU are included in the Kingdom of God. All of you. This changes everything. God’s very nature is to use those who are looked over, left out and “disqualified”. He calls them up out of sinful nature and into His Kingdom. The thing that you thought disqualified you from being a part of the Kingdom, is actually the place God wants to invade.

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.Genesis 50:20 NASB