“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"...compel them"

In the Luke 14 passage about the Parable of the Great Banquet, when the host is rejected by his invited guests, there is the following interaction between the master and his servant.

“The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’
“‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’
“Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’”

On a recent trip to Uganda, I was talking about this verse when I was struck by the word "compel" in the passage. There was a large athletic man who was one of the attendees at the training. I wondered aloud to the audience, "Could I make James come with me to church?" They all shook their heads "No," as nobody could easily, physically make James do something that he didn't want to do. It then struck me that the idea could be that of a compelling argument. Kneeling before James, I said, "Please come to the banquet. We will give you good food. We will treat you with respect and not embarrass you. We will make you feel like a friend and this will not be the last time we ask you to be with us. You see our Master wants you to come. He sees you as desirable and wants you to be among those who fill his banquet hall, his house. You will be given the same food as everyone else. Please come with me. My master will be disappointed with me if I cannot convince you, cannot compel you to join me."

If there was further hesitation, I would ask, "What can I do to change your mind so that you will give the banquet a chance? Perhaps I can bring you a taste of the food or bring others to you who have been to the banquet and had their fill. Please come with me as I don't want to disappoint my master who has commanded me to compel you to come to the banquet! He is already angry at those who have been invited and have rejected him."

If people were at society's margins (the poor, the crippled, the blind, the lame), one would think that an invitation to come to a banquet would be all that would be required. One might think they would be clamoring to get into the banquet. So to have to direct someone by saying, "...compel them to come in" indicates that the master knew that they would NOT want to come in even though they were poor and living on the margins of society. This reveals more about how the Master had been represented then it does about those who were invited. If I have to compel you to do something as positive as attending a banquet, it implies that it is something that you are not predisposed to do, that you would typically not choose to do. Perhaps your personal experience tells you, "Don't trust those people who invite you." No, you must be compelled. Perhaps if you are able to be convinced then you might give them another chance, you might change your perspective.

There is a saying that insanity is to do the same thing over and over again thinking "It will work this time." That people would need to be compelled to fill the Master's house, tells us that these people are not insane but are likely very rational, perhaps having given up on going to the Master's house. "Compel them to come in that my house might be full" is the command from a Master who knows his servants, AND those whom he desires to come into his house: "the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame."


1 comment:

Mark said...

I believe you are correct Jeff. The word compel in the passage seems to indicate convincing, making an argument, that any reluctant should come to the banquet because all are invited. Some other translations help your argument; The NLT uses the word "urge" (v.23).

Consider also a similar passage, the parable of the wedding feast in Mt.22:2-14 where the King orders his servants to go out into the street corners and "invite everyone you see" (9). So the servants did that and brought back everyone "they could find good and bad alike" (10).

The context of the two passages are slightly different. In Matthew Jesus is rebuking the Pharisees who clearly understood thay were the guests refusing the King's invitation. Luke's gospel sets Jesus at a dinner with friends. The differences in teaching the the lesson might reflect the differences in the audiences for whom each book was written.

The point, in both passages, is that we, as servants of the king are to do everything we can to convince everyone to "come." Jesus wants willing, grateful, loving followers, not automatons. In the Roman Catholic sacramental ritual the The Power of Christ compels a demon to leave its host. Jesus does not physically force anyone to follow Him, he wants us to choose him. He commands us to invite everyone, leaving no one univited.