Radical Inclusion: Jesus, The Father, and the D.E.I. Dilemma
Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” — John 20:17
This text is a problem for interpretation—one of the most problematic texts in all of the New Testament. To simplify it, I will try to give you the simplest view of this text.
While speaking to Jesus, Mary discovers that the man she is actually talking to is Jesus. She is so overjoyed that she instinctively grabs a hold of him. She grabs him in a manner that someone would grab another person that they don't want to let go of so they won't get away. But Jesus commands her not to "cling" to him "like that" because right now, he has a critical mission and limited time to complete it. So, Jesus tells Mary this mission and gives her one as well. He tells her to go and tell the disciples that he will ascend to heaven. But as he does this, Jesus makes a point to refer to God as his Father and their Father as well.
So, in simpler terms, Jesus is saying, "Don't hold onto me right now, Mary. I have to return to heaven to be with my Father. But you need to tell the others that I'm going back, and they need to hear the message that God is not just my Father but theirs as well."
So, let me make an interesting application for this today.
We live in strange times. Many new ideas are coming at us in a vastly changing culture. One of them is this agenda known as D.E.I. or Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. This has gained a lot of ground in corporations, government, and education aims to create environments where people of all races, genders, sexual orientations, religions, and abilities can thrive. The focus is to ensure "fair treatment" and "equal opportunities" for everyone, especially those who have been marginalized.
The problem is that social policies like this are impossible to achieve. By nature of inclusion, someone will always be excluded regardless of how socially ethical the D.E.I. policy might claim to be. And we have seen this happen since these policies were launched. There is always someone of a race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or religion who has been marginalized since this experiment began. And we are not the first to try our hands at policies and agendas like this. Syncretism has been tried many times before. We see numerous examples of this all over the Bible. Here are a few:
Tower of Babel (Genesis 11) - Although not explicitly described as syncretism, the building of the Tower of Babel can be seen as a fusion of human ambition and divine aspiration, attempting to reach the heavens.
Pharaoh’s Magicians (Exodus 7-8) - During the confrontations between Moses and Pharaoh, the Egyptian magicians can replicate some of the plagues. This suggests a form of syncretism where Egyptian magical traditions were seen as comparable to the power of the Israelite God, who were eventually outdone.
The Golden Calf (Exodus 32) - The Israelites, led by Aaron, created a golden calf to worship shortly after being delivered from Egypt. This incorporated Egyptian religious practices into their own, directly violating the commandments that Moses received on Mount Sinai.
Baal Worship (Books of Kings) - Throughout the period of the kings, Israel and Judah frequently turned to the worship of Baal and Asherah, deities of the Canaanite religion. Despite warnings from prophets like Elijah and Elisha, syncretism remained pervasive.
Moloch Worship (Leviticus 18:21; 2 Kings 23:10) - Moloch was an Ammonite god, and his worship involved child sacrifice. There are biblical references that suggest some Israelites engaged in this horrifying practice, merging it into their own religious framework.
The Magi and Daniel (Daniel 2) - Daniel stands among the magicians, enchanters, and astrologers in the court of Nebuchadnezzar. Although Daniel attributes his wisdom to Yahweh, his role within this Babylonian context suggests blending Hebrew prophetic tradition with Babylonian wisdom traditions.
Simon the Magician (Acts 8) - Simon, a Samaritan sorcerer, believed in the Gospel and was baptized. Still, he later offered money to the apostles to gain the power to confer the Holy Spirit. This could be seen as an attempt to integrate Christian beliefs with magical practices, which the apostle Peter strongly rebukes.
Athenian Altar to "An Unknown God" (Acts 17) - When the apostle Paul visits Athens, he encounters an altar dedicated to "An Unknown God." Paul uses this as a starting point to preach about the Christian God, indicating that the Athenians had incorporated various religious ideas, even ones they didn't fully understand, into their religious landscape.
From the Tower of Babel to the Greek Pantheon, we have tried syncretism many times before. Every time the experiment fails. But this drive for inclusion does point out one truth.
We long for inclusion.
We dream of a utopia where everyone and all people can be included. But the only way to know this kind of inclusion is to come to terms with the ultimate exclusion. It's a problem that drives deeper than race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and the like. We must come to terms with the fact that all human efforts to achieve inclusion are futile because human sin excludes all of us. What we need is a Righteous Father to include us who resolves the issue of humanity's ultimate exclusion—sin.
What we need to do today is to "grab hold" of the right mission. No social program will suffice. It's a divine mission—a mission accomplished by Jesus in his resurrection from the dead. It's the payment of sin by the life of one righteous man that makes all men righteous, evidenced by the defeat of death. This mission is radically and spiritually inclusive if you understand and accept the radical exclusion of your sin and your need for his salvation and leadership in your life.
D.E.I. is just an acronym for another false deity. Worship the only true God.
How does understanding Jesus' mission to ascend to the Father change your perspective on your own life mission? Do you find it easier or more difficult to focus on God's mission over cultural or societal agendas like D.E.I.?
In what ways does the concept of "radical inclusion" through a Righteous Father challenge or affirm your views on earthly inclusion efforts? How can you apply this understanding in your daily interactions?
DO THIS: Point people to the radical inclusion of the Father's mission, but don't ignore the exclusion of sin.
PRAY THIS: Father, help me to grab hold of Your mission for my life, seeing beyond the limitations of worldly agendas. Fill my heart with the radical inclusion that only comes from understanding the radical exclusion of my sin, drawing me ever closer to You. Amen.
PLAY THIS: Holy Forever.
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