Etiquette for Eternity
by Donna Morton
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With an annual Christmas party, birthday pow-wows and an assortment of product home shows, I can say I've done the hostess thing. It's a role that's taught me a lot: how to extinguish 100 burning crab balls, why not to hang a piñata in your hallway, and what to do when your house is wall-to-wall people and the National Weather Service issues a tornado warning.
Here's the one thing I can't crack: How to get people to RSVP an invitation.
While most people honor this timeless courteous act, others seem a bit confused as to what RSVP actually means.
Respond Slowly and Vaguely Please?
S-Stick in Drawer
P-Place call at last minute, if at all
Ever-so-gently, I'm going to vent. People who don't RSVP invitations are tweaking my major pet peeve.
My dad was career army, 31 years, so maybe it was old school military upbringing that made me this way. I grew up in a world with strict procedure for everything, including a chop-chop social protocol. If an invitation said RSVP, that meant ASAP, soldier! And arriving at an event you hadn't formally accepted? That would get you a "drop and give me 20!" for sure. (Unless it was something hosted by a five star general-then you'd be transferred to a penguin watch base in the Artic.)
People are busy. Understood and respected. But if someone is SO busy that they can't offer two minutes of common courtesy, it's time to clear the clutter.
How much nicer life would be if everyone practiced the Golden Rule, taught by Jesus: "Do to others as you would have them do to you." (Luke 6:31, NIV) The teaching is short and sweet, but it covers a lot of territory.
I know I'm not alone in my frustration. Perhaps nobody feels it more than Jesus. How many invitations does He extend-daily-that are met with stone cold silence?
In the Parable of the Wedding Banquet, Jesus said the kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. "Then he sent some more servants and said, Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet. But they paid no attention and went off-one to his field, the other to his business." (Matthew 22: 4-5, NIV)
Apparently, even in Biblical days, there was disregard for the efforts of a host.
Once upon a time, RSVP-ing meant preparing a handwritten reply and delivering it in person-even if that involved hitching up a team of horses and rollicking over coyote-owned terrain into Dodge City. Such was expected, and repeated failure to do this would get you blackballed off the invite list for Miss Kitty's next lemonade social.
I sometimes wonder what people today would do if we held them accountable for not RSVP-ing. "Hi neighbor, good to see you-too bad you didn't RSVP this barbeque with a simple phone call or email. We weren't expecting you and...uh... there's not enough pulled pork. You need to leave."
Now, that would have some eyeballs popping. Sadly, plenty of people are in serious danger of hearing something much worse.
I speak of those who never accepted Jesus' invitation to know Him as Lord and Savior. For them, it's going to be downright impossible to get past the celestial bouncers outside Heaven's eternal party.
As Jesus concluded in The Parable of Wedding Banquet: "For many are invited, but few are chosen."
Believers, of course, can pre-celebrate. We can toss the confetti and yell, "Hey, I accepted THAT invitation! I'm going to THAT party!"
Yes, we are, praise God, and that means we've got lots to look forward to.
Like party favors.
I wonder what I'll get. A glittering goodie bag that's brimming with rewards...or will I bop around Heaven with a single balloon in tow? That depends on how I RSVP the invitations Jesus sends me now-to serve Him, get to know Him better and lead others to Him.
"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad." (2 Corinthians 5:10, NIV)
Invitations from Jesus don't stop after the first one. Are we readily accepting them, or sending regrets?
If we postpone RSVP-ing, where are we sticking the invitation? In that pile of stuff that gets sucked into the black hole every house seems to have-the one that's got the missing socks and important insurance papers? We know the invite is here! We know we need to find it! We know we need to make a decision, but doggone it, we're just so...
We need to cast that off and RSVP our Lord.
R-Rejoice, Repent, Rest in Him
S-Serve, Seek, Submit to His will
V-Vow, Volunteer, Visit with Him
P-Pray, Praise, Put Him first!
These RSVP's help us store treasures in Heaven. They help us get ready for the party.
"Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter, 1:13, NIV)
What's more, they make us a more gracious invitee. Often, when people RSVP my invitations, they ask, "What can I bring?" When my husband and I have our Christmas party, we're touched by the presents people give us-candles, holiday tins of cookies, ornaments for the tree. Gifts aren't required for party entrance, but how appreciated they are!
So it is every time we accept an invitation from Jesus. It's a gift to Him, one we'll carry to eternity and place at His feet.
And isn't that the least we can do for...the Host with the Most?
©Donna G. Morton, June 2005
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