May 3, 2016 • Life for Leaders
The nations will walk by [the city’s] light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it.
There’s a stereotype of folks who live in Texas. (Actually, there are many stereotypes, but I’m thinking of one in particular.) It’s captured in the phrase, “Y’all come!” According to the popular viewpoint, Texans are always inviting people over to their homes, the more the merrier. “Y’all come,” means “Bring yourself, your family, your friends. Everyone is welcome.”
I’m challenged to begin now to live in light of God’s future. I need to do a better job welcoming all people into my sections of the world: my workplace, my church, my neighborhood, my friendship group, my home, and my family.
The funny thing about this stereotype is that I have found it to be true, at least for the most part. During the seven years in which I lived in Texas, I found most people there to be unusually friendly and welcoming. Many times I actually heard someone say to me, “Y’all come.” Hospitality was extended to me and mine even by people I hardly knew.
Revelation 21 doesn’t say anything about Texas, but it does have a “Y’all come” ethos. The holy city is certainly for God’s people, yet this includes a wider range of folk than we might expect. In 21:24, we’re told that, “The nations will walk by [the city’s] light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it.” Similarly, verse 26 reveals that, “The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it.” The nations not only enjoy the light of God’s glory that emanates from the city, but are also welcome to bring their particular glory into it. (We’ll examine the nature of this glory later.)
If you’re familiar with Old Testament prophecies of God’s future, the “Y’all come” nature of the New Jerusalem isn’t surprising. Time and again, the Hebrew prophets foresaw a day when all nations, not just the Jewish people, would come to Jerusalem in order to offer sacrifices, bring gifts, pray, and learn (see, for example, Isaiah 56:7; 60:1-19; Jeremiah 3:17; Micah 4:2; Mal 1:1). Through Christ, God opened the gates for all people to come into his city, to serve him and delight in his presence. Thus, without actually using the Texan phrase, through Christ, God says, “Y’all come.” John’s vision of the future confirms, illustrates, and extends this invitation.
When I reflect on this passage, I’m challenged to begin now to live in light of God’s future. I need to do a better job welcoming all people into my sections of the world: my workplace, my church, my neighborhood, my friendship group, my home, and my family. I didn’t spend enough of my life in Texas to feel comfortable using the phrase “Y’all come.” But the spirit of hospitality conveyed through this phrase isn’t just a regional oddity. It’s an attitude that flows from the heart of God revealed in Revelation 21.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
In what ways have you experienced the “Y’all come” welcome of God in your life?
How do you extend this kind of welcome to others, especially others who are in some ways different from you?
What might you do today to share the hospitality of God with others?
Gracious God, thank you for this vision of your future. Thank you for opening the gates of your holy city to all people and for keeping the gates open at all times.
May this vision of welcome inspire me to be more open, more inclusive, and more hospitable. Where I have the opportunity and authority, may I reach out to invite others into my life, my community, and my work. May our churches exemplify this kind of welcome, not just in our slogans, but in our attitudes and actions. Amen.
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.