Radical Inclusion

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Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 143; 147:12-20, 1 Samuel 13:5-18, Acts 8:26-40, Luke 23:13-25

One of the great joys of being a Christian is that we are called to be more in the business of expanding our circle than closing our ranks. At any given point in history, or in any given congregation or denomination, we may be circling the wagons in fear, but since the earliest days of the apostles we’ve been learning that God’s love is more inclusive than our own.

Take Philip for example. One day the Spirit urged him down a certain road, where he found a man sitting in a chariot and reading from the prophet Isaiah. The man, an Ethiopian eunuch serving as a court official of his queen, was in Jerusalem to worship. Philip ran up to the man, who needed help understanding what he was reading, and began a conversation which led to the Ethiopian asking to be baptized in some water they passed on the side of the road. So Philip baptized him.

This first Gentile convert – eager to join the faith and just as eagerly welcomed at the urging of the Spirit – differed from the Jewish apostles racially, ethnically, and sexually. He would never have been allowed inside the physical temple, but once Christ became the temple raised, these distinctions no longer mattered. Christ’s arms stretched out on the cross are the temple gates thrown wide open.

Radical inclusion, while ultimately joyful, can scare us. We worry strange newcomers might change the fundamental character of our community. We fear that allowing our understanding of God’s inclusive nature to evolve somehow betrays long-held beliefs or practices. Throughout history the church and its members have excluded, minimalized, or stereotyped the roles of women, the disabled, and even the left-handed. Yet the Spirit continues to urge us toward each other, to build bridges, to break down assumptions and prejudices based not in the gospel but in culture and superstition.

The world pushes us to judge, condemn, and exclude. Christ invites us to love, forgive, and welcome. As Christ’s body, let’s run to those who, like our Ethiopian friend, differ from us so struggle to understand his invitation.

Comfort: God loves more and better than we could possibly understand.

Challenge: Try to find more reasons to include people than to exclude them.

Prayer: Teach me, o Lord, to love your people and share your Gospel abundantly.

Discussion: Do you belong to any groups the church has excluded or does exclude? How does that affect your relationship with and understanding of Jesus?

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