Magazine article The Christian Century

Miracles of Inclusion

Magazine article The Christian Century

Miracles of Inclusion

Article excerpt

"For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility"

Whenever Christians seriously grapple with the question of who should be included as full and equal partners in the commonwealth of the God and Father of Jesus Christ, Paul's words about Christ having "broken down the dividing wall of hostility" ought to provide--and in moments of grace have provided--a powerful impetus toward the destruction of the various prejudicial barriers.

After the dividing wall between gentile and Jew has been broken down, the destruction of all other human barriers must follow, as Paul himself confirms. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:28).

To be sure, none of us is without biases and stubborn inconsistencies. It has become an open scandal that Paul himself had some exclusivistic things to say about women and homosexuals which contradict his many revolutionary insights. Paul, the apostle of human openness and freedom in Christ, when envisioning the drastic liberty implied in such freedom, sometimes seems to have become fearful of the dizzying prospect and reverted to a reassertion of that fleshly thinking which takes comfort in imposing the "law of commandments and ordinances."

However, let us admit that we too feel more secure when freedom is in our hands than when it is in the hands of others. It is ungraciously self-righteous to repudiate our revolutionary forbears in freedom, on whose shoulders we stand, for not being able to see quite as far as we.

A Christianity obedient to Christ's peacemaking life, death and resurrection must view each and every human being as one for whom Christ has died. "Christian" bigotry is simple blasphemy.

Nevertheless, we all participate in varying degrees at various levels--constantly or intermittently, subtly or crudely, consciously or unconsciously, brazenly or hypocritically--in racism, sexism, classism, ideological clannishness, nationalism. Upon consideration, the sorry litany mounts. Progress on one front is mocked by retreats on another.

Quite apart from the difficulties Christians have in viewing fellow Christians as people "in Christ," there is a problem of how to regard those outside the circle of faith. Many non-Christians resent the very notion of their being viewed christologically. As a Christian I cannot and dare not view others except christologically. Yet I can understand why those who reject Christianity might be alienated by the implication that they have been "included" within the saving ministry of Christ by me and my well-meaning theology. …

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