From Exclusion to Embrace
Jesus wants us to move away from excluding others and toward embracing others.
The Story Behind the Sermon
This year (2009) we have been preaching through the Gospel of Luke. As the preaching schedule was being put together, it just so happened that I was assigned to speak the Sunday before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. My passage for the day was from Luke 6—the passage about not judging others. Although our suburban church has a growing population of minority members, it is still a predominantly Anglo congregation, and I had never heard anyone acknowledge, let alone celebrate, MLK Day. I used this message as an opportunity to speak about human dignity, drawing from King's sermons on the subject. It was my way of introducing the church to King the theologian and preacher, helping them see that he was more than just a civil rights leader (as significant as that part of his life was).
I also had another intent for the message, though. In recent years I have heard more and more people in my congregation engaging in heated political or cultural rhetoric against groups with whom they disagree. I felt that we were going far beyond discerning truth and falsehood, right and wrong. Some were engaged in the condemnation of whole groups of people because of their divergent beliefs. I wanted to help the church recognize the difference between discernment and judgment. This is a distinction that few seem to understand anymore. The wider culture believes any discernment—any identification of right and wrong—is an act of intolerance. Some in the church have overreacted to this politically-correct attitude by taking their discernment into the realm of judgment and condemnation. Jesus denounces both extremes by calling us to differentiate clearly between good and evil, but to also love our enemies rather ...
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Skye Jethani is the executive editor of Leadership Journal, an ordained pastor, and the author of numerous books. He co-hosts the weekly Phil Vischer Podcast and speaks regularly at churches, conferences, and colleges. He makes his home with his wife and three children in Wheaton, Illinois.