When everyone’s dressed the same, when they look and sound the same, or when they agree with you on everything, life can seem easier. When life is uncontested, we become increasingly certain that things are as they ought to be. I think of the Jewish converts to Christianity in the decades following the life of Jesus, and I can imagine why it was hard for them to accept that God’s promises might include anyone outside of their fold. The Jewish people were the offspring of Abraham, adherents to the Law of Moses. Others could become part of God’s people only by converting to Judaism, adopting the practices and ceremonies of the faith.
But after Jesus, and through the ministry of the apostle Paul, God’s promise was suddenly extended to “the nations,” meaning everyone, without adding on the ceremony and rituals of Judaism. I wonder what that felt like for the Jewish people, to be told that the Gentiles—people who were so different from them, who saw the world differently and had different cultural norms—no longer had to become Jewish first in order to become part of the family of God.
When I think of how scandalous this notion might have been to those who saw themselves as the rightful children of God’s inheritance, I think about my own life and times. My pastor has often remarked, “We ought to expect heaven to look a lot different than what we’re used to seeing here on Sunday mornings.” In other words, we ought to anticipate that heaven will encompass the vast beauty and varied population of people from “every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (Revelation 7:9, ESV).
The gospel transcends everything else because God’s promises were designed for all of humanity. Everyone made in the image of God is indeed invited to the table. This is not based on genetics or having the right qualifications, but based on faith in Jesus Christ. And even faith is a gift from God, not something earned by works, “so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9).
As we celebrate the miracle of God taking on flesh, let us remember that all are invited into the kingdom of God. What would it mean for the maturity of our own faith to believe God’s promises are available to everyone as much as they are to us? Imagine looking at the world and really believing that “in Christ [we] are all children of God through faith” (Galatians 3:26, NIV). Limiting God’s plan for salvation to the realm of our own comfort and familiarity is tantamount to rejecting the power of the cross. God’s plan has always been for those who love Him and live by faith. Access to new life is offered freely to all through Jesus Christ.
Written by Alex Florez