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the chosen exclusion

When one of those who reclined at table with him [Jesus Christ] heard these things, he said to him, "Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!" But he said to him, "A man once gave a great banquet and invited many...."          Luke 14: 15, 16


When expensive things are sold in Jersey these days, one descriptive adjective often used is “exclusive”: an exclusive development of apartments and houses at Portelet; this exclusive design; trip exclusive to JEP readers.


The attraction of exclusivity is a strange one - as used the word simply means that others are excluded from having one of these.... How excluded? Well, mainly excluded because they can’t pay the price being charged.....


This exclusivity seems to attract us not only to buy but also to pay more that we should. Hence the excellent market in luxury brands and designer labels – because worn on the outside. 


But, when it so happens that we are among the excluded, we feel, deep within, a sense of being deprived, being alienated, even being insecure if the item concerned (like a house in Jersey) would, if possessed, have provided security against future unknowns. 


Exclusive - and desirable. Excluded – and deprived.  


One of the most coveted - and exclusive - things in Jersey is an invitation to the top table at a black-tie event. Not only in Jersey, though. Robert Maxwell felt that exclusivity from City of London functions so deeply that, on at least one occasion, he attended and sat throughout at the top table amongst the great and the good – although he had never received an invitation.


Look back at the words in bold above. Jesus was about to tell the story of this great banquet.... The problem for the host was that he sent out too many invitations. There was no exclusivity. So the host’s invite, Jesus went on to say, resulted in many "regret-I-have-another-engagement" RSVPs. The invitees chose to be excluded because the function was not exclusive enough – in their eyes.


The host’s response was to send his employees to scour the streets and lanes and to bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame. When there were still a few seats remaining empty, the employees were made to search the highways and hedges and to compel people from off-the-beaten-track to come to the great banquet.


Furthermore, the host then determined that those who had earlier excluded themselves were not to be allowed to change their minds.....


The great banquet, therefore, became an exclusive one. It excluded the first invitees.


And those who were not originally invited – but who now attended - were no longer .....deprived.  They were full of great joy.  They knew they were especially welcome at the feast because the host had invited them on the basis of their negative attributes, of their need.


Exclusivity is terribly hurtful - for the excluded - but eventually even more hurtful for those who choose to be excluded.


Exclusivity is the beginning - just the beginning - of loneliness and despair. The more we decide to have exclusivity in our lives the less we have of true friendship and the greater grows our loneliness. We’ve excluded others so we’re now alone.


But, in the kingdom of God, we will have our own company to enjoy, won't we? "If I look in the mirror long enough, surely I won't have to face the fact that I am alone."


Jesus' parable, of course, has deeper truth. As the man reclining at table with him said, before hearing the parable, "Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God." That feast is by invitation only. RSVP.

‘The Christian invitation is for those who have done their best and failed.'  (Anon.)
‘The blindness of unbelievers in no way detracts from the clarity of the Christian invitation; the sun is no less bright because blind men do not perceive its light.'  (John Calvin, French theologian, 1509 - 1564)
Richard Syvret

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