I hear a lot of talk today about grace and welcome. We rightly celebrate these words and talk of them abounds both locally and nationally in our church. We often say, “All are welcome” and hold up “grace” as integral to our Lutheran note in the choir of Christianity. What I often don’t hear when these words of grace and welcome are touted, is on what basis we receive grace and how it is that “all are welcome.” I’m reminded of how the Apostle Paul puts it in Romans 5: “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand.” Our access to grace is trust and faith in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ on our behalf. This trust includes repentance as Peter says after his first sermon, “repent and be baptized.” (Acts 2.38) We are right to celebrate grace and proclaim to the rafters that “all are welcome” but ultimately our primary message is the person and work of Christ – his life, death, and resurrection. Our welcome is a result of the Christ event. Remove the death and resurrection of Jesus from the equation and all this talk about grace and welcome is an illusion and nothing more than wishful thinking. The event is what grants access to God’s grace and favor.
Our welcome is a result of the Christ event.
Again, how are we welcome? Is it because we’ve done all the right things or fit into the norms of society or even the church? No. Our Lutheran note in the choir is to make sure people know that their welcome and place in the body of Christ is by faith in the person and work of Christ alone. Our background, decisions, identity, nor our accomplishments get us anywhere when it comes to having a place in God’s family – we have a place via our humble reception of the gift of God in Christ Jesus. Perhaps it is a fine-line, but I have come to this formulation: The Gospel is Inclusive but Inclusivity is not the Gospel. Hmmm…food for thought.