mjkimpan  —  March 20, 2013 — 10 Comments


sometimes i invite it.

yesterday i was encouraged to hear that my previous days’ post at RLC on the evangelical reaction to rob bell’s support of gay marriage had helped bring about the highest traffic in the website’s history (in conjunction with this post) ::

that was encouraging.

i also received plenty of facebook messages, emails, texts and DMs on twitter stating an appreciation for my words. comments ranged from ‘catchy title’ to ‘very carefully written’ calling the article ‘thought provoking’ or ‘beautifully worded.’

other comments were…less encouraging.

a quick tour around the comment section of RLC or on reddit (where the post was also apparently shared) showed that not everyone appreciated rob’s sentiments – nor my questions regarding how the church can best show love to the Other in the midst of this very clear cultural shift.

somewhere in the middle of the two ends of the spectrum was this note, sent yesterday ::

‘In several of your blog posts you mention Jesus having a ‘radical inclusion’ in contrast to the church’s exclusion of people. I see Jesus as having a ‘radical invitation.’ The idea of His offering inclusion to everyone seems to imply an across the board partnership with all peoples.’

<to which i respond :: ‘YES!  precisely.  as i’ve written before here and here, God is for all of us.>

the email went on to ask for my thoughts regarding christ’s call (or invitation) to living the way in which he ‘calls the shots about how life is to operate and does not include those who choose not to embrace his paradigm.’

here’s a snippet of my response, to which i’d open up the conversation to us here ::

‘it seems to me from my reading of the gospels that the only folks whom jesus doesn’t include are the ones who feel they’ve already got it figured out – the religious elite.

jesus continually intentionally pursues that which is disconnected, even going so far as to stepping outside the boundaries of tradition and law (we christians don’t like to phrase it as ‘breaking the law’ but essentially that’s what he did…repeatedly).

in doing so, jesus points toward a fulfillment of the law – the point of it, in fact.

there’s a graduated understanding from the ‘we’re chosen, you’re not‘ mentality into an ‘all are welcome into the kingdom‘ mentality. that’s why (in my opinion) jesus spends so much time with the outcasts of society – the tax collectors (essentially thieves), the prostitutes and drunkards, the lepers, the blind, lame, et cetera – ‘the Other…’

it’s surprising stories like these – found again and again in the gospels – that have led me to the conclusion that christ stands in solidarity with the Other – no matter where they are…

so yes – an invitation toward a better way of living – a kingdom way of living – to ‘go and sin no more.’

but regardless of the invitation, it seems christ’s inclusion is not dependent upon our response to the invitation; rather, we hear his invitation in the context of already having been included.’

what do you think?


  • Albert

    For so long churches have used the language of “inviting people forward to accept Christ into their lives” that we seem to have translated that to mean that God has also ONLY invited us.

    Interesting shift in perspective, Michael, to reaffirm that we are all creations of God, that there is already a relationship between God and his creation (that is, to paraphrase you, we have already been included), and that He desires to be in relationship with us inherently as a result. To acknowledge the relationship from our end is what the mismonikoered “invitation” is.

    Interesting comment about “christ’s call (or invitation) to living the way in which he ‘calls the shots about how life is to operate and does not include those who choose not to embrace his paradigm.’ ” It seems to me there probably is a disconnect between what Jesus’ paradigm is and the paradigm put forth by the various church denominations and other Christian leaders/writers. In my humble opinion the responder gives too much credence to human interpretation of the Bible. Ultimately, I do acknowledge there is only one Truth. But I postulate we (and this is any and every human being; barring the Pope?) only dimly see what that is. Despite this we have our own perspectives, speculations to which we sometimes hold too adamantly.
    Thank you for a great post, Michael. (Sorry for the dig on the Pope.)

    • couldn’t agree more, albert – as i’ve said before, i sense there is a growing awareness among a number of folks that the depth, width and breadth of God’s grace and love extends beyond the borders we’ve erected in the past 2,000 years (and beyond).

      excited to see where those thoughts take us.

  • rob g

    Well said, Michael! I am so with you on what this post says. Jesus embraces us all, right where we are, and if that means moving to the edges to find us, well, that’s where he seems to be most of the time anyway.

    It seems that those of us who have been Christians since childhood, have often been immunized against the radicalness of who Jesus was while here on earth, and have no sense that we could transfer such radical love to today’s context.

    • thanks for your thoughts! i believe there are a growing number of folks among us who have similar sentiments, and desire to follow hard after God in the way of jesus rather than settling for the *status quo*.

      these are exciting times indeed.

  • Ford1968

    Yes. This. “But regardless of the invitation, it seems Christ’s inclusion is not dependent upon our response to the invitation; rather, we hear his invitation in the context of already having been included.”

    Very well said. My understanding exactly. There is nothing we can do to earn God’s grace. Nothing. It is unconditional.

    I’m a heretic in certain circles because I believe God’s grace extends to non-Christians too. In my understanding, grace is not conditioned on an acceptance of Christ or even a belief in God Himself. All have been included already.

    • indeed – if grace is dependent upon our response, it ceases to be grace, by definition. strange how we’ve missed that subtle point.

      i’ve gotten used to the title ‘heretic.’ welcome to the club.

      • Exactly. Grace cannot have conditions! Another question I’ve been asking: If our acceptance or rejection of God’s grace determines where we end up, doesn’t that mean we control our own destiny? And isn’t that a human-centered gospel?

        • Ford1968

          In December, I saw Sharon Kleinbaum speak on the occasion of her 20th year as Rabbi for CBST. At one point, she said something like: “I don’t believe in a God who cares if I believe in Him. The God I believe in isn’t that petty.”

          It felt like a bold declaration to me at the time; it runs so contrary to the way we Christians usually speak of God and His relationship to mankind. But having given it a lot of thought since then, I think there may be a lot of truth in her remark.

          It’s way too early to be thinking this deeply…I need coffee.

          Best –

      • michaeldanner

        I’m catching up with all your posts. I’ve been attending to other things, so please don’t think I’m picking on you all at once.

        Are you a universalist? I ask, not because I’m heretic hunting or anything of the sort, but for clarity. I think the case can be made for Christo-centric universalism along the line Rob takes up (but perhaps better by Gully and Mulholland in If Grace is True).

        How do you respond to the distinction between “grace accompanying the offer of salvation” to all and “grace as salvation to all”? Seems to me like you are in the second camp.

        God offers salvation to all. On what basis is the offer made? On the basis of grace. You rightly point out that it is not based upon the merit of the recipient of the offer at all. Therefore, the grace isn’t (or can’t be) dependent upon the response of the respondent. However, that doesn’t mean that how the recipient responds is not necessary. The question of response has to do with receiving what is offered.

        So, yes, God’s grace extends to all people, even non-Christians. However, God’s grace is not the same as God’s salvation. These are different things. Grace accompanies an offer it isn’t the offer.

        • haha – thanks for the clarification, my friend. thought you were on the warpath. 😉

          in response to the question about universalism, i’ll borrow a page from a theologian much more adept than i at fielding such queries ::

          ‘i’m not a universalist, but i hope that God is.’ i’ve written more about my understanding of the gospel here in this older post (http://www.mjkimpan.com/ambassadors-of-reconciliation-2/)

          i agree with you that our response to the good news *does matter*, particularly as it relates to bringing heaven to earth and living into the kingdom of God in the here and now.

          i also am becoming convinced that the spirit is at work in and amongst us, whether we realize she is at work or not. and that ‘work’ is drawing us to repentance – a change in our thinking, believing and behaving – and hopefully into relationship with God and the Other in a way that furthers the message of reconciliation.

          how that all works – the atonement, God’s grace and faithfulness in the midst of our faithLESSness, salvation, the afterlife, et cetera – is a mystery to me and is, in my opinion, planted firmly in the realm of speculation. yet as i’ve gathered around these important questions i’ve grown increasingly less comfortable making declarations that i (or WE) have the answers and have got it ‘right’ and that everybody who disagrees with me has it ‘wrong.’

          what i DO know is that the scriptures teach God’s grace is unconditional and undeserved – and *that* is – to me, at least – good news.