For years I have told DOOR participants that there is a difference between being uncomfortable and being asked to do something morally wrong. The reality of this has taken many forms. Back in the early days of the AIDS crisis serving meals to persons affected by this cruel disease caused many participants to move out of their comfort zone. There were a few who claimed that DOOR had crossed a moral line by serving these people. For those who embraced their discomfort, more often than not these encounters lead to a deepening of one’s faith and an expanded understanding of the radical inclusiveness of the kingdom of God.
For some, especially church leaders, these experiences can be threatening, mainly because they appear to undermine the moral authority of the church. Lately I have taken to calling these encounters the process of humanization. It is easy to condemn that which we do not know. In the early days of the AIDS crisis many in the church had never met someone affected by AIDS. Condemning AIDS patients as immoral was easy. Creating a space where AIDS patients and my more conservative brothers and sisters could talk, cry, and pray together had a transforming impact on everyone. The person with AIDS was no longer a nameless and faceless entity; the patient now had a name, a face, and a story. For the AIDS patient the Christian was no longer the judge and jury. When we take the time to humanize each other mind-shattering possibilities emerge.
I am writing this on January 21, 2013. Fifty years ago Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about a dream. This morning our president talked about “we” the people.
Sometimes I worry that the church has chosen comfort over discomfort. It is comfortable to serve a God who fits into our boxes. We want God to have the same enemies as we do, to condemn those we condemn, to find moral repulsion in the things we find morally repulsive. In other words, we want God to read Scripture with our perspective and come to the same conclusions we have come to.
There is another one-liner I always enjoyed telling DOOR participants, “God is no respecter of the boxes we put God in.” God does not come to humanity seeking approval for God’s actions. I am thankful for leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Barack Obama who remind us of the possibilities when we approach life with a radically expansive inclusiveness. It is my hope and prayer that those of us who find ourselves in church leadership can play a lead role in demonstrating the possibilities that accompany radical inclusion.