I know that historically Christianity has been portrayed as an exclusive religion. That some how if you were Christian you were part of an elite group and better than everyone else. Christianity would run through cycles of using violence in an effort to see people converted. If that didn’t work, we resorted to heavy doses of guilt. I’d almost rather take the stretching rack than have someone tell me all the ways I’m not a worthy or valuable as a person. At least the physical pain of the torture rack eventually ends. None of that is what Jesus intended when He commissioned His disciples to make more disciples. We’ve so convoluted the process of coming to and following Jesus and inviting others to do the same, that it actually rejects people. And not just a few, but a lot of people.
That’s not how it was. In fact, one of Jesus’ more notable descendants was a prostitute. Rahab was a prostitute that lived in the city of Jericho and was the sole player in making sure the Israelite spies made it out alive. They were so grateful that they promised to keep her family safe when they took the city. She was so struck with awe at the power of their God and the willingness of His people to accept her and not take advantage of her, that she joined them and started worshipping God. Eventually she married and began having children, specifically Boaz, who was the great-great grandfather of King David, who Jesus descended from. At that time, women were considered low-class citizens. Their husbands maintained every legal right over them. At times slaves had more privilege than women. So for a woman to be a prostitute was even worse. That means she would be subject to the abuse and use of who ever desired to control her. Likely she was viewed lower than a dog, which dogs we’re pretty low on the totem pole. For Jesus to be descended from a prostitute is huge news. And it’s good news.
It’s good news because even as she sat in a position of shame and sin, she asked for mercy and acceptance and received it. Not only did she receive it from God, but from His people. God’s people extended mercy and grace to a woman, that by all accounts didn’t deserve it, because that’s what God does. It’s the same with us. Think about the sin you were in before you accepted God’s invitation in. Mine was ugly, but it didn’t matter to Him. If that’s too much conjecture for you, then consider the adulterer.
While Jesus was in the middle of his ministry, a group of religious leaders brought a woman that they caught in adultery to Him and threw her at His feet. It happened in the street, in full view of the public. She was likely naked, which surely compounded the guilt and shame. Note that there was no guy drug out and flung at His feet, just the woman. The religious leaders had the law on their side. They intended to stone her to death. Flinging her at His feet, they demand that He cast judgement on her and probably expected that He participate in her execution. But He didn’t. Instead He told them that the ones among them that were without any sin, not less sin than hers, could throw their stone. No one did. Then He leaned down and looked at this broken, embarrassed, guilt laden woman and asked, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said “No one, Lord.” And He said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” He said He didn’t condemn her either. He didn’t condemn her. Some scholars believe that she continued to follow Him and serve in His ministry, even after He ascended to heaven, suggesting that she took serious the mercy shown her and the command to “go and sin no more.” The point here is that God invited in a prostitute and an adulterer. I’m grateful for that because that means I have a chance at mercy and grace. It means you do too. You have a chance at acceptance. You have a chance at grace.
If our Savior invited in prostitutes and adulterers, who are we to reject anyone. Our mantra has to be, “Come to Him, all who labor and are heavy laden, and He will give you rest.” It can’t be anything else. It can’t exclude those that we think are “too sinful,” because He came for everyone. He didn’t come to condemn, He came to save. And when we take on the mantel of condemnation, we throw His mantel of grace and mercy in the rubbish heap. I’m not saying we shouldn’t expect each other to live by the standard He set, we should, the bible is clear on that. If Christianity is a religion of exclusivity on any level, then it was reserved for the lowly and excluded the religious elite. Read your bible. But Jesus was clear that everyone was invited to the party; even the religious elite (consider Nicodemus).
If you’ve been hurt by Christianity, I’m sorry, that’s not what God desires. His call is to the tired. Those that life has beat down, those who have been trying too hard, those who labor in vain only to receive rejection, those who think they’re too lowly, and those who need acceptance; He’s for you. And it isn’t meant to be some intangible or fanciful thing. It’s meant to be experienced through His people. I’m sorry if His people hurt you, that wasn’t Him. If you’re a Christian and presenting a religion of exclusion, stop it, that’s not Him. Our purpose if to be agents in the reconciliation of humanity back to God, for His glory. If we’re so critical of others that it causes them to reject Him, that’s on us and we have to stop. Rejection is crushing. We all experience and deal with it differently. The Church shouldn’t be known for rejection. The church should be known for invitation. God invited the prostitute and adulterer. We should be thankful for that and follow suit.