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Come and welcome

December 2007 | by John Thornbury

Come and welcome

A few years ago I saw something that touched my heart. An evening TV news segment presented an historical feature about Ellis Island, which was the American government’s chief immigration station from 1892 till 1943.
It was here that immigrants were first detained and examined for citizenship in the United States. Pictures were shown of the thousands of eager people from Europe who hoped to find a home in the new world.
However when the immigrants were processed at Ellis Island they were by no means sure that they would be accepted. There were, you see, personal characteristics which would disqualify them. One of these was a communicable disease.
Medical doctors examined all applicants and those who failed to meet minimum health requirements were rejected. Two per cent of those who sought entry to America were refused. A large ‘X’ was placed on their coats as a sign that they would have to return to Europe. The photos of the rejected reflected the despair they felt at their cruel fate.
Imagine what it would have been like to stand in the rejected line with an X on your coat. What frustration and bitterness this must have caused.
As I looked at the tragic scene of these broken-hearted applicants, I thought of the grace of God. What a difference between God and the national immigration service! To become an American citizen at Ellis Island one had to be worthy and free from disease, but to be accepted by God one only has to come sincerely seeking mercy at his hands.
To be saved, one does not have to be healthy, wealthy or even wise. Indeed, we have to recognise that we are ruined guilty sinners, utterly unworthy to become citizens of heaven! We have to come to Christ confessing that we have no claim on God but depending only on his gracious invitation through Christ.
The Bible presents God as ready and willing to receive all who sincerely come to him trusting Jesus Christ and his atoning work upon the cross. At the end of the Bible we read: ‘Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely’ (Revelation 22:17). No one is turned away for Jesus said, ‘The one who comes to me I will by no means cast out’ (John 6:37).
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