The sceptical may ask – Does the Bible specifically say we need to be inclusive? After all, there are injunctions in the Bible that point more towards being exclusive than inclusive – the Apostle Paul warns “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers” in 2 Cor 6:14.
If you search through the Bible (which is very easy today), you cannot find the word Inclusive. The word “inclusive” only emerged in the 15th century. However, the concept of being inclusive is found throughout the Old and New Testament. There are many stories in the Bible of inclusion.
Deuteronomy 23:3 says with no uncertainty, “No Ammonite or Moabite shall be admitted to the assembly of the Lord. Even to the tenth generation, none of their descendants shall be admitted to the assembly of the Lord.”
Yet, Ruth, King David’s great-grandmother – (just 4 generations), who was also an ancestor of Jesus, was a Moabitess.
Without Ruth, one of the four women mentioned in Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew, we would not have Jesus. But the good news, the Gospel, is inclusive from the very beginning. It includes even those we may consider “enemies.” We need to stop seeing in terms of “us” and “them,” but recognise we are all one.
The Gospel / good news transcends the lines we keep drawing. Even our different beliefs do not separate us. Imagine – the Magi, priests from another religion, were included in this grand story of God’s love. They didn’t convert to Christianity, or Judaism. They returned home still faithful Zoroastrians.
Identity is not necessarily a bad thing – it gives us a sense of belonging, a sense of community. The problem begins when our sense of identity starts to focus on differences and we start seeing people as “the other” and begin to dehumanise them – seeing them as somehow less than us. That somehow they are the lawless ones, while we are the righteous ones.
If we read the Bible without looking at the big picture, then we will think that the circle of God’s love is not very big. It would exclude all those people who are considered “Other.” But when we zoom out, and look at the big picture, we will realise that the good news – the Gospel – is that the circle of God’s love is wider than we can imagine.
We need to learn to draw the circle wide – recognising that God loves everyone – First Realise Everyone’s Equal, which is what we hold dear at FCC. We make inclusivity the guiding principle of our faith because God included all in His good news to humanity. God is inclusive from the beginning, today and for eternity.