We Are "Universalists"?
When the Neighborhood Creed was being developed there were two things that made people uncomfortable:
- Our first draft spoke directly into LGBT inclusion. (and revised to not include that clause by a member of the LGBTQ community)
Because of this concern of us potentially being universalists we left it in here.
We believe that nobody is beyond the grace of God and that all people are partakers in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Wait, so we are not universalists? Not exactly but, that's a discussion for another day. When we developed this language we didn't really have "who's in and who's out" from an eternal "destination" in mind. Rather, we had who is included in the reconciliation of Jesus and the grace displayed in that.
What do we mean by saying that nobody is beyond the grace of God? This is saying that all of humanity is a candidate for reconciliation. God is not actively pursuing you with hellfire like some might have you believe. There is no divine hit job in play to keep tabs on whether you're walking the straight and narrow or not. That should be a sigh of relief! Many of you who have interacted with this project have said that you've always been taught that God is looking to actively see you fall. Some also have laughingly admitted that petty everyday annoyances have had blame placed on God because of this kind of thinking. I assure you that the God who inspired Paul to say not to be a stumbling block to your brother and sister is not making hoping you stumble as well. I want to affirm you before we move forward.
There is grace for you. You can trust in that.
"Sure there's grace for you but you aren't partakers in Christ unless you repent and believe". This was some of the feedback we received about why this was too dicey to put in this part. Depending on what you believe about "salvation" that might be a true statement in that tradition. More power to that discussion but that's not what we're even talking about here. We are talking about the incarnation. Jesus is both God and Man. Undivided. The word become flesh as the gospel of John puts it. Jesus came to reconcile all of humanity to himself which is reconciling himself to God. This isn't a heaven or hell issue. It's a forgiveness issue! Reconciliation is the becoming compatible of the flesh and the spirit.
Jesus is the incarnate God. God with meat. God con carne. This word becomes flesh to become compatible with the suffering of the world and participate in it. In this reconciling the world to himself all sin and suffering is summed up in Jesus. There is a tabula rasa - a clean slate! There is no confessionals involved in this yet. This is how we ALL are partakers in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Grace is the motivator, Incarnation is the facilitator. You are reconciled. Walk in it. God is not separate from Jesus. Jesus is God. Anything you see Jesus do is a divine agreement of the trinity. There is no contradiction and the supply of love is never-ending.
May we all walk in reconciliation with God and each other and may we all have the courage to live a messy grace. Amen