Reversing Exclusion of the Other

God dignifies all of humanity, and asks us to do the same. Even (perhaps especially?) those who are different.

Tracing the overarching narrative of scripture, one can see even in the midst of the evolving Jewish understanding of the character of God a progression or evolution in the elevation of the Other –

You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.’

You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry.’

Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.

These hints of social justice for the alien and outcast were elevated, heightened and intensified in both the major and minor prophets (Amos, for example, forges an explicit and unbreakable link between the call for justice toward those outside the community and the righteousness of God).

Related: Stop Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. – by Matt Rindge

The celebration of the fact we are each hand-crafted works from divine fingertips, regardless of our religion (or lack thereof), ethnicity, citizenship, gender, race, sexuality, socio-economic status, or any other variety in which our humanity is celebrated and expressed is woven throughout the story of scripture.

This radical inclusion is best seen in the person of Jesus who saved his statements of exclusion only for those who would make it difficult for others to find their way to YHVH.

Think about it.

The countless stipulations and demands for conformity in the Old Testament law were fulfilled in the very person of Jesus Christ – who broke cultural, religious and even political boundaries by including any and all into his new way of living, standing in solidarity with Others as the way of reconciliation ::

The samaritan woman – scorned by the Jewish status quo for worshiping YHVH the ‘wrong way’ on the ‘wrong mountain.’

The syrophoenician woman – whom didn’t worship YHVH at all, but instead likely had false idols to which she subscribed deity.

The centurion’s ‘servant’ – another gentile oppressor of God’s people, likely engaging in amoral behavior and certainly of no consequence to an oppressed Jewish rabbi.

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The blind and lame beggars – sent to the margins of society, the popular view was their disabilities were acts of divine retribution for sinful behavior – either their own or that of their parents.

The lepers – each of whom carried not only a socially unacceptable stigma, but the very real and present danger of an uncurable and fatal disease.

The man with a withered hand – lingering in the synagogue and hoping for a miracle on the sabbath, he was seen as unclean to those in religious authority.

The unbelieving paralytic -lowered from a rooftop into the compassionate presence of Jesus by his faithful friends.

Also by Michael: God Isn’t on Ray Lewis’ side

The disciples – dropouts and outcasts, this ragtag band of curiously single Jewish men was composed of a diversity of cultural, socio-economical and political categories – including one whom he knew would betray him.

Christ’s counter-cultural engagement of the Other stands in stark contrast to the way in which many Christians interpret their charge to be ‘in the world, but not of it.’

In 21st century western evangelicalism (and even beyond) the church is primarily known for its exclusion of the Other, rather than the radical inclusion of all personified in Christ.

A thinking individual must wonder :: at what point did we begin to move backwards and away from the ‘come as you are culture’ which Jesus created and move toward excluding Others with whom we disagree… and what can be done to change?

What do you think?

Michael Kimpan is the author of the WayWard follower blog, a site designed to inspire thoughtful conversation and movement among followers of Jesus Christ. Michael works with The Marin Foundation in Chicago, a non-profit organization which works to build bridges between the LGBT community and the Church.

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About the Author

Michael Kimpan

Michael KimpanMichael Kimpan is the author of the WayWard follower blog, a site designed to inspire thoughtful conversation and movement among followers of Jesus Christ.View all posts by Michael Kimpan →

  • 21st C. Episcopalian

    “The celebration of the fact we are each hand-crafted works from divine fingertips, regardless of our … sexuality … celebrated and expressed is woven throughout the story of scripture.”

    I must have missed the celebration and of alternative sexual identities in my study of the sacred texts, but then I don’t read the Queen James version. Did I miss something?

    • Frank

      Exactly! God does not make anyone gay or with a distorted and damaging sexuality. Sin does that. The height of deception.

      • Jonathan Starkey

        They loved darkness more than they loved the light.

        • Frank

          Yes people who are unrepentant sinners love the darkness more than the light as evidenced by their choices.

          • Jonathan Starkey

            Yes, people who follow Jesus will eat the fruit of Jesus, just as people who follow the path of the evil one will eat the fruit of the evil one.

            The Pharisees were not deceived, they knew exactly what they were doing.

            They knew what Christ stood for, and they knew who he was.

          • Jonathan Starkey

            The idolators and murderers, would not break ceremonial cleanliness laws, while participating in the act of murder.

      • Eric Masters

        That’s a valid opinion to hold, but it’s not the truth. It has been proven that people can be born gay.
        Even more telling than that is that you edited out everything else from that excerpt and ignored the rest of the content (apparently including the overall theme.) Why is somebody’s sexuality such a concern to you when the world is so broken?
        I’ll be honest- it’s not the lepers, tax collectors, or homosexuals that I struggle to include. It’s you. I pray that both you and I can be as graceful as Jesus, because we are both falling way short right now.

        • 21st C. Episcopalian

          I edited out the rest because I’m in agreement with the rest, thought the article was generally excellent, but wanted to highlight the one unbiblical, and therefore erroneous, assumption/problem.

          People may be born gay, meaning having attraction to same sex r’ships, but then again Genesis 3 (and most of the rest of the Bible) reminds us that all people are born sinful due to the Fall so that reasoning is irrelevant.

          • questioning

            whether or not people are “born sinful” is not a settled question. The more predominant theory is that sin is learned behavior and we, due to our brokenness, fall into it. Assuming that is true for a moment, is sexual attraction learned behavior or is it a characteristic? How does one “learn” to be gay, or “learn” to be straight for that matter.

          • Eric Masters

            The theology of sin may not be a settled question, but genetically people are born gay or straight. This doesn’t apply to every single gay person (or straight person for that matter), there can be outside variables as well. I don’t think I “learned” to be straight, but I can’t be sure what outside influences led to that if any. Irrespective of that, sexuality being part of our nature is a well-accepted fact.

          • Frank

            Where is the sconce that proves anyone is born gay? It’s not there, not yet anyways and even if it was it doesn’t make homosexual behavior any less sinful.

          • Actually, the Human Genome Project has found a gene that they believe is linked to homosexuality.

          • 21st C. Episcopalian

            You’re not serious, I hope. Bible 101.

          • Questioning

            Serious about what? “Born sinful?” Of course I am serious. Google it… We are born with a sin nature, i.e a propensity to sin, but we learn how to sin as we are affected by the world. We are not “born sinful” and given a ration of sin as part of birth: otherwise, that child the minute they come into this world, before ever having a chance to hear the gospel, is condemned already.

          • Eric Masters

            Fair enough. I “must have missed the celebration of mocking those different than us in my study of the sacred texts, but then I don’t read the Bible as a weapon version. Did I miss something?

          • …well, you missed a closing tag for the italics. 😛

          • Eric Masters

            I guess so, thought I had that in there.

  • Jonathan Starkey

    I think… You’re are tapping into something that the reformed Church misses out on. The “Reformed Gracers” spend so much time on Justification, and accusing the Jewish Pharisees of Jesus day and our day of trying to achieve righteousness by works of the law. That they look past the bigger statement being made that was Israel’s turning into a idolatrous community of exclusion.

    That sabbath laws and rituals were being used as a statement of exclusion, and lesser as a statement of legalism.

    Drawing separations based upon what you do and don’t do.

    Christians were known for their radical generosity and inclusion. They will know us by our love for each other. Can that be said of Christians today, does the outside world look at the Church and say these people are so loving, scandalous love and generous.

    Or do they look in and see the exclusion, confusion and “Pharisaical” tendencies?

    You say your freed by grace, and love Christ, but do your actions follow?

    • Jonathan Starkey

      AD Christians were doing something (living the way/following Christ) that stood out in the Roman culture.

      • Jonathan Starkey

        You can claim Christ, and know all the in and outs of the atonement, and say things just right and be “obedient.” And be unloving, exclusive and crusty.

  • otrotierra

    Many thanks to Michael Kimpan and RedLetterChristians for affirming Jesus, no matter how terribly offensive it is to do so.

  • Frank

    The message of Jesus is inclusion. Everyone is welcome to put their faith in Christ alone and become His follower, trust His words and the Word of the Father, and be transformed from their sinful self.

    • Jonathan Starkey

      This isn’t just about personal salvation and transformation. Being transformed from your sinful self on your island, being transformed is about how then you interact with others. Has your transformation allowed you then to love others?
      Following Christ, live the way Christ lived

      • Frank

        Agreed! Following Christ, loving Christ is defined by following His commandments including love one another. But we are not called to love sinful behavior. Inclusiveness has been redefined these days as anything goes.

        • Jonathan Starkey

          You’re blind.

          • Frank

            In what way?

  • Jonathan Starkey

    I like to comment on RLC, but I’m thinking it would be better if they stopped the comment section.

    • I’m inclined to agree…

    • Frank

      Better for who?

      • Jonathan Starkey

        Better for everyone who stumbles across this sight, and comes across the same 10 people have the same stupid arguments.

        • Frank

          In other words you want people to only get incomplete or theologically questionable information?

          The bloggers here often make incomplete posts that are misleading. More information is almost always required it seems.

      • Better for the people who don’t try to turn every single article into one of three pet arguments.

        • You Are Part of the Problem

          See above.

          • Oh hey, an attack on my character that is completely lacking in substance. With that, I am completely convinced of how I was wrong.

          • 22044

            Nice to meet you too.

          • I figured it was probably an established “guest” commenter who changed his/her name to complain. That might be an unduly jaded assumption, though.

  • Nick

    I think that Michael is on to something. I agree whole-heartedly that the Church has seemed to lose its “come as you are” mentality and has become highly exclusionary.

    I think there is a tension, though, that many people on both sides of these issues ignore. Jesus included all (progressives set up camp here) but he didn’t condone sinful behavior (which is the hard line conservatives try to hold). It’s not quite as black-and-white as being one or the other, and that is why society is talking about inclusion so passionately these days. It’s certainly why I devote a good deal of mental energy here.

    Zacchaeus was slimy but repented and restored any wrong he’d done as he saw fit. Jesus told the woman caught in adultery, “I don’t condemn you” but then added, “now go and sin no more.” Paul talked about being “all things to all people so that I might win some,” but then talked about sinful behavior within the fold of Christian fellowship.

    I don’t know where the line is drawn in the Church. Perhaps it is because the Church looks too much like any secular organization. But I know that the proper response is to be loving to people and not treat them abusively for any reason. That’s the spirit of the verses quoted at the beginning of this article.

    The tension struggles on, but I’m grateful for this piece.

  • 22044

    “In 21st century western evangelicalism (and even beyond) the church is primarily known for its exclusion of the Other, rather than the radical inclusion of all personified in Christ.”

    Although this is a blog entry and not an essay, this statement is too broad a brush. Many churches love God, seek to follow Him, and practice the model of radical inclusion.
    As some other commenters pointed out, inclusion in God’s kingdom is a free gift for all, but is conditional upon our response. All of the folks mentioned in the post received grace & mercy from Jesus…and abandoned Jesus when He was sentenced and eventually crucified, along with everyone else. Let’s hold fast to the good news, that our sins were paid for by the death & resurrection of Jesus, to guide a proper model of inclusion.

  • Michael, I think this boils down to the self. When the false self (human ego) controls our religious engagement, we are likely to abuse religion and wrap it up in tribalism. Individual and group identity, then, are front and center for how we operate as Christians. Brian McLaren has written that “oppositional identity” fosters a hostility in which we think we know who we are by having a handle on who we oppose. This is the false self in action. It is constricting and exclusive, for we define who is in over and against who is out, count ourselves as in, and can therefore feel good about ourselves. Unfortunately, we are trapped: limiting our own understanding of our own self to the false self, when we operate in this manner. Then, that which is designed to set us free (faith/religion) becomes, for us, the way of death.

  • Digger

    One line away from being a great article. Yes, Jesus told everyone to come as you are. Then he told them to stop being that way; leave a changed person. Repent, He told them. Follow me, He told them. Not once did He say, it is ok to continue in your sinful ways.
    We should invite ALL to come, but we shouldn’t change to accomodate them.

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