By Beth Demme
It’s tempting. Really, it is. It’s tempting to read the Bible thru a lens of “we’re in, they’re out.” When it comes to faith, too many of us have been fed a steady diet of us v. them. We have developed an almost insatiable need to be sure we are “in,” compelling us to identify who is “out.” If we know who isn’t invited to the party, we feel more secure about our own place on the VIP list.
But don’t do it. Don’t give in to this lazy hermeneutic (a big word that means: way of reading the Bible). Let’s step away from that kind of thinking and choose, instead, to read the Bible through the lens of a God-sized love story.
A love story so big God erased the ultimate us v. them line and became human.
In Jesus’ day, I would have been in the out-out-out crowd. I’m a Gentile. I’m a woman. I’m a sinner. Three strikes! Throughout Acts and the Epistles, we see the early church struggling with how to handle the Gentile problem. Jesus was the Jewish Messiah, so how does his saving work apply to Gentiles? In other words, the Apostles Peter and Paul lived in a world where Jewish people were “in” and Gentiles were “out.” Guess what they concluded after spending time with Jesus? Gentiles are in! (Acts 15). (Although Paul wasn’t among the original disciples during Jesus’ earthly ministry, Paul says he spent three years learning the gospel “through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:11-18).)
That alone should caution us to beware of any biblical interpretation that says “we’re in, they’re out.”
Plus, look at the earthly ministry of Jesus. Anytime we draw a line between us and them, Jesus is on the them side. He’s with the tax collectors and prostitutes. Christians do well to remember that’s where he found us.
I think we’ve been coached to think “God is out to judge me” or “get me” or “condemn me.” We act like God is keeping a ledger of good and bad, but mainly bad. As if God, like Santa Claus, keeps a list of who’s naughty and nice (and, of course, checks it twice!).
Let’s not reduce the God-sized love story to a ledger. Instead, let’s embrace the God-sized story and live like people who are loved.
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