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Justice

Are All Welcome – Really?

April 30, 2019 by

Tolerance. Acceptance. Affirmation. It is the mantra of our age, the welcome sign in front of almost every church. It is the mantra driving quotes such as Lady Gaga’s, “I am a Christian woman, and what I do know about Christianity is that we bear no prejudice, and everybody is welcome.”

God’s love indeed encompasses everyone. Jesus died for all people. He invites everyone into the kingdom. Whoever you are, no matter your burden, he says, “Come.” That means everyone – the worst sinners, the left out, the losers, the misfits, the illegals, the different. All are welcome. You and I included.

crowd of people crossing a street

True. But this is only half the truth. If not, then something is off in the New Testament. What could Jesus have possibly meant when he said, “Many are invited, but few are chosen”? Why is it that when Jesus baptizes, he has a winnowing fork in hand which gathers his wheat into the barn but burns up the chaff with unquenchable fire (Matt. 3:11–12)? If everybody is included, then why is the gate small and the road narrow that leads to life? And why do only a few find it? Not all who say, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom, Jesus reminds us (Matt. 7:13–23).

Jesus may welcome everyone to his table, but once seated he has a word to say. “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.” Jesus came to bring peace, which he offers to all, but his peace is so sharp that it is like a sword, dividing those who are for him from those who are against him (Matt. 10:32–39).

If Jesus is so affirming, then what about those who neglect to offer a cup of water to someone who is thirsty?

Even to Simon Peter, Jesus said, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me” (John 13:8). If Jesus is so affirming, then what about those who neglect to offer a cup of water to someone who is thirsty (Matt. 25:34–46), or those who show up to the wedding feast improperly dressed (Matt. 22:8–14), or those who are unfaithful (Matt. 24:45–51)? If all are included, if all are embraced by God’s love, then why are these ones thrown outside into the darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth?

“Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God?” writes the Apostle Paul. “Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9–11).

If tolerance is supposed to be our highest social virtue, then why does Paul call out those who are, “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power” and say we are to “have nothing to do with such people” (2 Tim. 3:2–5)?

Jesus never condemns anyone. Nor should we. But neither does he remain silent. His word is liberating: “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Yes, God loves all people. His grace is free and available to each and every one of us – whatever we have done, however messed up we may be, whoever we are. God is patient, not wanting anyone to perish, calling everyone to come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9). Yes, God accepts us just the way we are, but he loves us too much to let us remain that way.

When Jesus welcomes the sinner, he frees him from sin. When he welcomes those lost in darkness, they learn to live in the light. When he embraces the broken hearted and the broken to pieces, he heals them. When he encounters the self-righteous, he tells them that they must be born anew (John 3:3).

Jesus is not a Santa Claus on whose lap we can sit, feel better about ourselves, and then go on our way expecting to receive gifts. His compassion is a power that transforms us: once blind, we now see! Once lame, we now walk. Once sordid, we are now washed, sanctified, and justified.

That is Jesus’ kind of love. And it is this love that is offered to all.

Jesus never condemns anyone. Nor should we. But neither does he remain silent. His word is liberating. “Go now and leave your life of sin,” he tells the woman caught in adultery (John 8:11). For those who wish to remain as they are, only wanting to be accepted and affirmed, then Jesus’ welcoming love may be too much, too dangerous. Jesus’ word of welcome is indeed for everyone, but that very same word is always an invitation to change. Will we?

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About the author

Charles E. Moore

Charles E. Moore

Charles E. Moore resides with his wife and daughter in Esopus, New York where he teaches Bible and Christian Thought at The...

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  • To proclaim all are welcome is ongoing in many church communities. It is more than being kind or tolerant. Many pastors, as you know are celebrating same-sex marriage, and blessing the children of such marriages that come into conception by extraordinary means. It has become quite incredulous. They really do not think that they need to repent or go & sin no more, as they do not think or believe that they are sinning. Yet, they love Jesus, and claim Him as their Savior. In our world, I am meeting so many people who are okay with the lifestyles you share about. I have heard parents share their struggle with acceptance of their adult children's choices. Also, people in church communities who have gone from thinking it is a sin to live a homosexual and/or the LBGTQ ways to full acceptance & being fine withe all of this. Mainly loving people wherever they are & however they came into church communities is what I am observing.. They want to acknowledge and not live in secrecy, and they love God and want to be involved in praising & worshipping within a loving community. It certainly is quite radical, and not the way those in The Bruderhof or other communities believe & think. I once asked two pastors how they reconcile this with what Scripture says, and they replied that they do not take the Bible literally, and feel it has many contradictions, and that Jesus never mentioned homosexuality. Oh, MY!!! So, we pray: Lord, have mercy!!

    Pat Wieczynski
  • Great article. Thanks for sharing.

    Keith Riddick
  • Thank you.

    Mike Wellunscheg