How to Really Be Inclusive Like Jesus

Derek Rishmawy | July 15, 2015

For some, the gospel narrative means Jesus came to end exclusion and preach God’s inclusive kingdom. This was certainly part of his ministry and is arguably the most appealing aspect to our culture’s moral sensibilities. In Jesus, the outcasts of society have hope. Those long marginalized and kicked to the curb (figuratively and literally) can find him extending a hand, inviting them back into the community of the truly human as objects of dignity and divine affection.

Issues of inclusion and exclusion lie at the heart of our society’s most contested social issues. Whether it’s part of the dynamics underlying the racial tensions dividing our cities or our country’s heated discourse on sexuality, we need to deal with the realities of inclusion and exclusion. This is why I recently revisited Miroslav Volf’s Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation (Abingdon, 1996). It’s a fascinating theological account of forgiveness, truth, justice, and exclusion. Volf’s account has a particular poignancy as it’s set in the context of the exclusionary violence that destroyed his own home in the Balkans.

Nuancing Inclusion

I was immediately struck by Volf’s nuanced treatment of Jesus’s ministry of inclusion—or rather, ministry against exclusion. According to some accounts of Jesus’s ministry of radical inclusion, he offered…

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