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The humility of Christ is so radical because he possesses the highest power as the Son of God, yet he included the lowly and “sinners” with love.

As I Was Saying is a forum for a variety of perspectives to foster faith-related conversations among our readers with the goal of mutual learning, even in disagreement. Apart from articles written by editorial staff, these perspectives do not necessarily reflect the views of The Banner.

I believe inclusion is one of the foremost things Jesus taught during his ministry on earth. Certainly, some would argue there are more important biblical truths, such as redemption and reconciliation with God. Being Christ-centered also implies a certain degree of exclusivity regarding other religions and spiritual practices. Sometimes we might verbally commit to inclusion being an indicator of a wholesome Christian community. But deep down, there is a tension between rooting Christ-centered values and seeking inclusive communities.

The root cause of this problem is that we tend to have too many assumptions about Jesus, just like his adversaries and disciples in history. There is no denying that Jesus challenged religious people’s boundaries about who God is and what divine love means. The invitation to break down the walls that separate us from God and from each other is still a resounding one today.

When I first became a believer, an exclusionary set of teachings reframed my outlook on the world: I had lived in the spiritual darkness of atheism for the first two decades of my life, and now I had finally seen the light. It was somewhat a negation of my past history, my family who never heard the gospel, and my unbelieving friends. Because the church talked about such a God that created the universe, I felt that I belonged to something much bigger. To show my determination in following the “narrow path,” I changed my social habits and distanced myself from some nonbelieving friends. It took me over a decade to realize that distancing myself in this way was not what Jesus did and so perhaps this perspective was too narrow..

Through the next decade, I witnessed how many church leaders taught purity culture but abused women and how white missionaries in China (where I lived) patronized and monetized local ministries while claiming to be doing kingdom work. What came after a long phase of disillusionment was my re-awakening to the only question that mattered: Who is this Jesus that I decided to follow? How can I grow more rooted in the way of Jesus while actively deconstructing the tendencies of that narrow version of Christian dominance?

We all know that one of the most striking aspects of Jesus' inclusivity was his willingness to engage with people society deemed as outcasts. He dined with tax collectors, conversed with Samaritans, and healed lepers—all actions that defied the cultural norms of his time. In doing so, Jesus was pointing to the hierarchies of power and how unjust they were (and are).

Power is the ability to direct resources, to influence others, or even to change the game. It is an unequally distributed asset. We construct power by our words and behaviors. The church has a lot of power over people’s lives. Pastors and leaders have the power to influence or even dictate how people live and give. With such power comes great risk for abuse. And we’ve seen church leaders abuse their power as much as anyone holding any other kind of power.

The radical inclusivity of Jesus is a counter-cultural narrative about power. He addressed the many forms of inequality and injustice created by powerful institutions and leaders. Jesus walked with the powerless and treated them as equals. For example, Jesus saw the woman caught in adultery as a person judged by the all-powerful moral systems of that time. Jesus sympathized with how weighty and crushing this kind of power imbalance could be on an individual who is a dignified image-bearer of God. The same applied to impoverished women, marginalized lepers, and despised tax collectors. The humility of Christ is so radical because he possesses the highest power as the Son of God, yet he included the lowly and “sinners” with love.

The Sermon on the Mount further reveals Jesus' commitment to inclusivity. In the Beatitudes, he blesses the meek, the merciful, and the peacemakers, challenging conventional notions of power and success. The parable of the Good Samaritan adds another layer to Jesus' inclusive teachings. By highlighting the compassionate Samaritan who extends help to a wounded stranger, Jesus dismantles prejudices and underscores the universal call to love our neighbors, regardless of their ethnicity, religion, or social status.

Human beings are so inclined to prejudice and exclusion because, deep down, we know that we have lost favor with God. The bad tree of our alienation from God always yields the bad fruits of exclusion. Ironically, the church as an established religion likes to boast about these bad fruits as “being set apart from the world.” Without compassion for individuals who suffer the weight of power imbalance, Christians resemble the Pharisees more than Jesus. Instead of bringing light to the world and witnessing God’s love, an exclusive church is just an addition to the divisions of our time.

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