Do we find God’s inclusive ways surprising? Perhaps God is more gracious than some of us might anticipate. Or maybe our surprise comes in learning that God’s inclusiveness does not conform to how our culture seeks to be accepting, but rather transcends it for the better.
Paul sought to unequivocally communicate God welcomes all people, regardless of the degree of brokenness. One way Paul achieved his goal involved confessing he was a blasphemer, a persecutor, an arrogant man and in fact the worst of sinners. Yet, God’s grace overflowed through Christ toward him as an example of how God desires to respond to the rest of us (1 Timothy 1:13-16).
Jesus taught the same idea regarding God’s inclusive love when he shared a story about a young man who destroyed his life through nearly every conceivable means possible. Yet, later his father celebrated his return by killing the fatted calf, putting a ring on his finger and a robe around his shoulders.
Most people recognize that Jesus told this parable to teach how much God loves the lost. What might escape our notice is that Jesus’ overarching goal with this parable aimed at transforming the religious people who failed to love as God does!
People sometimes say, “God would not want me. I have done too much.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus and Paul debunked such faulty thoughts. Even so, if people want to believe God rejects them, nothing will change their mind. Nevertheless, God has revealed otherwise.
Whereas our culture encourages welcoming everyone and God extends his arms toward all, this is where their inclusive ways depart. Our culture clamors for us to accept everyone. Period. It would have us leave people exactly where we found them.
By contrast, God’s welcome does not abandon any of us to continue to wallow in our brokenness and pain. God has our back. He seeks our wellbeing. So God invites us to be everything he created us to be. And if we are willing to accept his offer, he does for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
Since we cannot earn eternal life, he offers it free of charge. Since we lack the power of spiritual transformation, he provides it. Since following our desires and thinking destroyed our lives, God reveals how to walk in his healthy ways.
God’s invitation is extended to all. Notwithstanding, not all receive his blessings. It is upon those of us who are willing to choose to turn from our ways and who are willing to choose to rely upon his Son that God grants spiritual transformation, healing from our sinful brokenness, the gift of eternal life and a purpose rooted in God’s will for his people.
We should not be surprised that God’s inclusiveness surpasses what human culture can concoct. If we will respond to his universal invitation, God does not leave us where he found us. God makes us better.
A prior article: God’s Surprising Inclusion and Exclusion