All Are Welcome (Appearances to the Contrary)

mass of diverse people
Photo credit: <a href="">Fady Habib</a>

Romans 16:25-27

Give God credit for whatever strength you gain from hearing my story about Jesus, which solves the mystery that for ages was an enigma, but is now revealed. Through the writings of the truth-tellers it’s now available to everyone of every ethnicity, as God commands, so everyone can follow in faith. Eternal credit goes to God alone, who is wise, by Jesus! Amen.

It’s no surprise that Paul’s closing lines make it clear that he wants God to get the credit for any good that may come out of his having written it. It’s no surprise, either, that he sees Jesus as the answer to every question. But what’s remarkable is the broad inclusivity of the Jesus story. It’s now available to everyone of every ethnicity.

This is a radical thing to say of a religion, because it means that no one person or group has a corner on the Christian story and what it means. Of course, the church didn’t continue in this radically inclusive way. Only a generation later, two at the most, the ranks of Christianity’s priestly class had developed to be the keepers and mediators of the story. And by the time of Constantine and the creeds, the whole thing went from being a radically democratic movement to being another cog in the machine of the Roman Imperial status quo.

But here it is, in defiance of every ancient and modern attempt to claim the Jesus story as the exclusive intellectual property of a few to use for the maintenance of their own wealth and power or to baptize their own political campaigns.

Let it be said clearly: the story of Jesus is for the benefit of everyone of every ethnicity, so everyone can follow in faith.