Sunday, 29 January 2012

Inclusion and Exclusion, Salvation and Judgement

Earlier this term, Jill Chatfield spoke to the Ridley Hall community on the theme of ‘exclusion and inclusion’, based on the two readings from Genesis 3 and Matthew 22.1-14. What follows is an edited version of that short talk by way of encouragement and challenge to readers of this blog.

In our Genesis reading Adam and Eve were decisively EXCLUDED from the Garden of Eden. In Jesus’ parable, the good and the bad, the throng on the town streets, were ALL just as decisively INCLUDED in the King’s invitation to the wedding banquet.

Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command and tasted the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Their eyes were opened, their innocence destroyed, and the freedom to choose became an awesome responsibility, a terrible burden and a dangerous liability.

In that first bite, in their surrender to the lies of the serpent, Adam and Eve denied God’s truth (‘did God really say?’); denied God’s goodness (‘when you eat, your eyes will be opened’) and denied God’s otherness (‘when you eat, you will be like God’.)

They set themselves up as the centre of their universe, the sole arbiters of truth, goodness and godliness. In so doing, they excluded themselves from the privileged relationship of intimacy that they had enjoyed with their Creator.

Exclusion and judgement followed.


The Creator’s desire to draw people back into the Garden of Eden, into intimate relationship with himself, is evident in Jesus’ parable of the wedding banquet.

In this parable, God’s invitation to sit at table at his Son’s wedding feast is rejected by those who saw themselves as God’s favoured few and goes out to all and sundry. INCLUSION and salvation are offered to all, the good and the bad. Simple acceptance of the invitation is all that is required, although, interestingly, those who try to come in by the back door on terms of their own are summarily ejected.

INCLUSION and EXCLUSION, salvation and judgement, are both central to the nature and purpose of God.

God’s holiness is an exclusive holiness that necessarily banishes all that is not godly; God’s love is an inclusive love that seeks to embrace the whole of his creation. Only God can draw the line that determines what and who is IN (and) what and who is OUT.

INCLUSION and EXCLUSION, salvation and judgement, are also both central to our activity as human beings. We are stewards of the creation and of the Gospel, beings made in the image of God, descendants of Adam and inheritors of the freedom to choose. So we too have to make judgements and proclaim God’s salvation.

Woe betide us if we fall into the same temptation as Adam and make ourselves the arbiters of what is good and true. That is God’s sole prerogative and we should not be too hasty in our assumptions about who will sit at table in God’s heavenly banquet.

As we exercise our stewardship of the Gospel, we should be cautious in passing judgement and generous in proclaiming salvation.

We should seek to cultivate integrity of intellect, as we seek to discover God’s truth; obedience of heart, as we allow ourselves to be shaped by that truth; humility of spirit, as we engage with other seekers of truth; and awareness of our imperfect apprehension of God’s truth as we enter into debate about how to apply that truth to the issues that confront us as individuals, as community, as church and as nation.

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