Welcoming and Inclusion
In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Quite an expansive statement of inclusion from one of the most militant excluders ever, which we operationalize thus:
We place no restrictions on church participation at any level based on race, national origin, sex, class, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
Before meeting Christ, the apostle Paul knew that only people with the right religious and ethnic identity, who also obeyed the rules, could join the community of faith. Letting the wrong people in would taint everyone, displease God, and make a mess of the whole religious enterprise. Paul chiefly deplored Christians, violently opposing their attempted subversion of his rules.
After meeting Christ, however, Paul sang a different tune:Wow, he now proclaimed, God welcomes anyone who comes to him through friendship with Christ! ANYONE! Identity and obedience matter not at all.
Paul had realized that Christ, through the cross, had destroyed the big obstacles standing between us and God of sin, death, and the authority of rules. Christ then also neutralized anything of culture or identity that could be used to exclude—autonomy (slave versus free), ethnicity (Jewish versus not), money (wealthy versus poor), religiousness (circumcised or not, obeying food rules or not, resting on the Sabbath or not), moral standing (sinner versus “righteous”), gender—the list goes on.
“Come to me,” says Jesus, “all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Not many qualifiers there. We can all freely access the goodness of God through our faith in His grace. He joyfully unites the full spectrum of our diversity through the person of Jesus into a brilliant faith community that shines its light into the world.