Highways and Hedges
I came home this week because of the tragic death of a very close friend. The last 48 hours have been tough, and I have been spending my time ministering to the family. I have also had opportunities to help a man named Marvin minister to others in our community. Today Marvin, another dude named Pat, and I were helping two families get some different, newer furniture. Both families lived in not the best of places. There was odor, dirt, no makeup, kids who looked like they hadn't had a bath, dogs running everywhere, and probably a lack of insulation, making December nights in their trailers, even in Mississippi, cold. As we left, Marvin told me: "Luke, there are so many people in the woods." It didn't click with me. I asked what he meant, and he replied, "There are so many people that need Jesus, and we sit up in church and argue about stuff like what kind of music to play."
When I got back in the truck and began to drive back to my parents' house, my mind began to chew on what Mr. Marvin had said. My mind went to Luke 14:15-24, where Jesus tells a story about a banquet feast. There were people invited to the banquet who blew the invitation off with several excuses. Finally, the master told his servants to go out into the streets, bringing in "the poor and crippled and blind and lame" (v. 21). He then told his servants to "Go out to the highways and the hedges and compel people to come in that my house may be filled" (v. 23). The story ends in v. 24 with a frightening remark about those who blew the invitation off: "For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet."
This story brought out some nuggets of truth to me, and I share with you now what I learned in that Chevy Truck with the breeze in my face:
Highways and hedges mean dirt. Back in the day, unless you were royally hooked up with a Roman stone "interstate," the roads were dirt. Hedges grow in dirt. If we are to go the the highways and hedges, we will get dirty. We are celebrating the greatest trip to the highways and hedges this time of year: Jesus leaving heaven, taking on flesh, and "pitching His tent and setting up camp" on planet Earth. How can we expect to take the Gospel of the One who went Himself, not only coming here but bearing and becoming the black dirt of sin for us, satisfying God's wrath against all who would repent and believe, and not "get dirty?" If we claim the name of Christ, we will get dirty.
Highways and Hedges mean outside. In America, there is always more comfort inside than outside. In our air conditioned homes, in our padded pews, in our executive offices, life inside is always best for comfort. Highways and hedges destroy comfort. It is here that we encounter people that do not hide the fact that they don't have it all together. They don't act and pretend like so many who take up seats in churches, disguising who they really are to save their apparent spiritual image. People that live in the highways and hedges don't pretend. These are the kind of people that Christ told us about in John 4:35 that are ready to be brought into the kingdom. Those people were Samaritans, half-breeds whom the Jews hated. They were the outcasts, they were the despised, they were the rejected. Christian, when is the last time you revisited where you might be were it not for the grace of God? What wickedness or hellish ways would you been caught up in were it not for the mercy of God? People who live in the highways and hedges are ready for the Gospel! Unlike many "insiders," materialism, pride, and self-reliance have not so intoxicated "the outsiders" to the point that they reject those who reach out to help. These are people who are much closer to sensing their great need for Jesus.
Highways and Hedges mean obedience. The servants went out to compel those living outside in the dirt to come in because their Master had told them so. As much as our hearts should reach out to those who live here, our overriding motive to go to the highways and hedges should be that the Master's house should be filled (v. 23). We go for Him; He died for them. We obey Him, getting dirty, losing our comfort, becoming all things to all men, in order that He might receive the reward of His suffering. It is our privilege to go out to the least because the Greatest of all has commanded us to do so.
Do you really believe in the Gospel? Though men, women, and children may differ in social class, financial standing, and cultural aspects, such as language, race, and even religion, all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We are all together bankrupt and headed for certain judgment and hell. A man's richness, position, possessions, or pride cannot save him; he is utterly hopeless and helpless without the mercy and grace of God. BUT!!! "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life." This is the meaning of the Gospel. This is the meaning of Christmas. This is the privilege and purpose of every Christian, to take that message to all men. What will you do? Merry Christmas!