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No Shut Outs!

John 5:19-23

So Jesus explained himself at length. “I’m telling you this straight. The Son can’t independently do a thing, only what he sees the Father doing. What the Father does, the Son does. The Father loves the Son and includes him in everything he is doing.

“But you haven’t seen the half of it yet, for in the same way that the Father raises the dead and creates life, so does the Son. The Son gives life to anyone he chooses. Neither he nor the Father shuts anyone out. The Father handed all authority to judge over to the Son so that the Son will be honored equally with the Father. Anyone who dishonors the Son, dishonors the Father, for it was the Father’s decision to put the Son in the place of honor. // John 5:19-23, The Message

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I don’t know if you have noticed this or not, but we live in a tribal age. Everyone is so concerned about which team you’re on. I remember a number of years ago there was a segment on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart where he sent one of their correspondents to one of the political parties’ national convention. The correspondent was interviewing people and asked what made their party better than the other? The response was that their party was the “big tent” party and welcomed everyone. The correspondent then began asking people who were their political “other” were welcome. Predictably, the people he interviewed said, “no! Not THOSE people.”

It was a stark example that the age we are living in seems to be first and foremost about figuring out who is with us and who against us. Then, we can determine who our enemies are.

It’s easy to have enemies.

There’s just something about hating someone that is animating.

So, when I read this passage this morning I was struck by how it subverts the “Us vs Them” mentality of our culture. It also was subversive of Jesus’ own culture. He too lived in an age where the lines were clearly drawn.

Jew or Gentile.
Greek or Barbarian.
Slave or Free.
Man or Woman.

He lived in a world that was full of distinctions and separations. You couldn’t worship with those who were in different categories than you. Men and women were separated at Temple and in the synagogue, for example. Distinctions ruled the day even when it came to worship.

Yet, here is Jesus saying that neither he nor the Father will shut anyone out. Jesus’ work was about bringing reconciliation to the world. This reconciling work meant that the lines of distinction were being erased. The tribalism was being undercut by grace. It didn’t matter who you were to Jesus, you were welcomed at his table.

Jew or Gentile,
Greek or Barbarian,
Slave or Free,
Man or Woman,

…all were welcome at his table and into the presence of the Father.

The dividing walls were coming down and Jesus was welcoming everyone.

As I sit at my desk today writing and I think about our world. I am struck by the sad reality that Christians, those who intentionally and willingly bear the name of Christ, are among the most divisive. We seek to separate and divide, Us vs Them, in so many ways. Whether it be politically, racially, theologically, or even over the type of seating in a congregation’s building. It is as if we are looking for ways to separate and categorize people into nice neat little groups.

There is something satisfying about knowing our enemies.

The problem is, that as followers of Christ there are to be no enemies. When the Christian looks out into the world we are to see a world filled with bearers of the divine image who are welcomed and accepted by Jesus.

If we can approach the world this way, we become a people who are no longer dividing and separating into Us vs Them but a people who make bigger tables and throw bigger parties. We can become a people who practice a radical minimum standard of welcome and hospitality.

Perhaps we might even become a people known by our love.

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