Starting from the right place
If we’re honest with ourselves, we see that we usually start from a place of exclusion. I know I do. A lot of religious folks see the masses largely as people who have to earn their inclusion. In other words, they function as the rest of the world does.
If I want to be part of a local martial arts or yoga studio, I can’t just go and sit there. They’ll eventually ask me to leave (trust me, I’ve tried). I have to do the practices. I have to do the work. Then I can be there.
If I steal your car, I’ll go to jail.
As a dad, if I’m awful to my wife and child, they’ll leave me and/or have me arrested.
And rightly so.
This is also how our economy functions - on progress, merit, and exclusive privilege. If you don’t have these, the world will move on gladly without you.
In short, in this world, we are excluded until proven worthy of inclusion.
But Jesus comes and turns this upside down. He starts from a place of inclusion and wholeness. Jesus starts from the right place in the story. He starts from Genesis 1 (we are created good), not Genesis 3 (we lose trust in this and start to believe and live as if God hates us).
Note: It is only we who believe this. Not God. In this loving God’s place, we create/project a damning and untrustworthy one who looks a lot like us in our untrusting state.
So we exclude. We feel naked and cover ourselves with fig leaves in our contrived shame and we project that shame onto others.
In Christ Jesus, God has to die to godself in order to undo this.
Jesus re-creates inclusion where it has been lost. In him, we see God going straight to the most despised - lepers, demoniacs, adulterers, sex workers, colonizers, slum lords, tax collectors, you name it. He didn’t run to them to tell them they needed to do xyz to gain God’s love. He also didn’t tell them that they didn’t do anything wrong. He tells them all from the cross, “You are forgiven.” This is the resurrection promise.
All of the ways we think we/they fall short… All the debt that we hold in our minds… In Jesus, God forgives all of it.
Jesus doesn’t ask us to earn this forgiveness. He GIVES it to us as a divine promise. When this hits our heart, we know we (and they) are included and always have been.
In Comfort & Joy,