In light of the church and its mission, I have two convictions and hopes for His Church and her role as His people. First, the church must include and embrace others as Christ has embraced us (Luke 22). Second, the church must live in authentic Christian community where lives can healed, encouraged, empowered, and ultimately, transformed in the likeness of Christ (Ephesians 1:21-23).
The Apostle Paul’s command to the Romans is to “Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you” (Romans 15:7). This concept of welcome is what theologian Miroslav Volf identifies as embrace. It is “the will to give ourselves to others and welcome them, to readjust our identities to make space for them, and it is prior to any judgment about others, except that of identifying them in their humanity.” So, no political party, no government, no race, nor can any culture do what Christ did in welcoming, or embracing humanity. To welcome, as Christ welcomed, transcends time and society. This embracing confronts injustice, deception and ultimately anything that attaches itself to exclusion.
The practice of including and embracing is also seen through the doctrine of God, the doctrine of Christ, and the doctrine of salvation. For the cross and the covenant plays an extremely important part in revealing the truth of welcome. It is on the “cross God renews the covenant by making space for humanity in God’s self, that which humanity has broken. And unlike a contract, the covenant is not simply a relationship of mutual utility, but of moral commitment.” So, through this covenant, God reveals His moral character, which makes space for the other in the self. The ultimate display self-giving, in Luke 22:20, was reveled when the new covenant was made permanent in blood, and was made eternal on the cross. Interestingly enough, the new covenant “is God’s embrace of the humanity that keeps breaking the covenant. And as designed, the social side of that new covenant is our way of embracing one another under the conditions of hostility.”
May we as the Church, truly embrace others as Christ embraces us, creating space where communities and lives can be transformed!
Further Thoughts to Consider:
1. Do you find that “embracing” others to be difficult?
2. How might the practice of “embrace” look in your church?
3. When practiced, embrace will transform both the individual and the group. So, how might this practice influence our ministries and how we live missionally?
4. In what ways could you and your church missionally embrace your community?