Exclusion is unfortunately a common occurrence in many Christian communities and churches today. People can feel excluded for a variety of reasons – their ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, disabilities, or even just being new to a church. However, exclusion goes directly against the teachings of Jesus and the rest of the New Testament.
As Christians, we are called to love one another, treat everyone equally, and welcome all people into God’s family. In this post, we will explore what the Bible teaches about avoiding excluding others and instead embracing diversity and inclusion. Here are some key takeaways:
- Jesus set an example of including those excluded by society like women, foreigners, and the disabled
- The early church welcomed all believers regardless of ethnicity, gender, or social status
- We are warned against showing favoritism or discrimination in how we treat people
- Loving others is one of the greatest commandments for Christians
- Unity among believers is emphasized despite our differences
Let’s explore each of these principles in more detail from Scripture.
Jesus Set an Example of Inclusiveness
Jesus’ ministry was marked by compassion and inclusivity, especially towards those who were marginalized and excluded by society. He broke down barriers that divided people and welcomed all who wished to follow Him.
One example is Jesus’ regard for women. In ancient Jewish culture, women were largely regarded as lower class citizens. However, Jesus treated women with dignity and respect. He encouraged Mary to sit and learn with the men (Luke 10:38-42), engaged in theological discussions with the Samaritan woman (John 4:1-26), allowed women to travel with Him and finance His ministry (Luke 8:1-3), appeared first to women after His resurrection (Matthew 28:1-10), and more.
In Luke 13:10-17, Jesus heals a disabled woman on the Sabbath, conversely to the synagogue ruler who was indignant that Jesus healed on the Sabbath. Jesus responded, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it?” (v. 15). He exposed the hypocrisy of excluding this daughter of Abraham from being released from her disability.
Jesus also elevated those rejected by society like tax collectors and sinners:
The Pharisees and their scribes complained to His disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Luke 5:30-32 NKJV)
The religious elite sought to exclude and condemn sinners, but Jesus came to show them grace, forgive their sins, and welcome them into the kingdom of God. He looked past surface level differences to care for their eternal souls.
As Christians, we are called to emulate Christ’s example of embracing those often excluded and caring for their spiritual and physical needs rather than judging them.
The Early Church Welcomed All
The early Christian church from the book of Acts onward made efforts to unite believers across ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, and more. For example, Acts 2 describes how the Holy Spirit was poured out on men and women, young and old, and those from many nations. The passage concludes:
Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. (Acts 2:41-45)
This diversity was a fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy that God would pour out His Spirit on all people, not just an exclusive few (Joel 2:28-29). Baptism and fellowship in the early church were open to Jews, Greeks, slaves, and free people alike.
The apostle Paul later confirmed there was neither Jew nor Greek in Christ:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)
Though from very different cultures, Jew and Greek were to be united in one body of Christ. Believers were expected to overcome prejudice and ethnocentrism to join together in Christ.
Paul also taught that social or economic status was irrelevant in the church:
For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty…that no flesh should glory in His presence. (1 Corinthians 1:26-27, 29)
Following Jesus was open to all, regardless of intelligence, wealth, status, or vulnerability. The only qualification was humble faith in Christ.
Avoid Favoritism and Discrimination
The Bible has strong warnings against showing preference, bias, or discrimination towards people based on external factors:
My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, “You sit here in a good place,” and say to the poor man, “You stand there,” or, “Sit here at my footstool,” have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? (James 2:1-4)
James condemned favoring the rich over the poor or exalting someone based on appearance rather than spiritual maturity. He argued this went against the royal law of loving our neighbor as ourselves (James 2:8). Throughout Scripture, God reminds His people to avoid preferential treatment or judging by outward qualities.
The apostle Peter came to the realization that God does not show favoritism among people:
Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.” (Acts 10:34-35)
As Christians, we are called to follow God’s example and love all people equally. When making judgments, we should look at the heart rather than appearance, ethnicity, gender, or other external qualities.
Loving Others Is Paramount
One of Jesus’ greatest commandments to His followers was to love others:
“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
Showing impartiality and embracing people from all walks of life is an important way we obey this commandment. Scripture says:
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God… In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. (1 John 4:7, 10)
If we do not love fellow believers, regardless of their backgrounds, we are not walking in God’s love. When Christians exclude, judge, or marginalize others, this is ungodly behavior.
Paul also encouraged the church in Corinth to let all things be done in love (1 Corinthians 16:14). As Christians, showing unbiased love should be our aim, not rejecting certain people due to personal prejudice.
Unity Among Diversity
The early church did not eliminate diversity by forcing uniformity. Christians maintained ethnic, cultural, and personality differences, but were united in one faith:
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (Ephesians 4:4-6)
Unity does not require conformity. The apostle Paul taught that the church is made of many members, like parts of a body, which function together despite differences (1 Corinthians 12:12-27).
When Christians embrace those of other backgrounds and unite as one family, this displays God’s love to the watching world. Jesus prayed for oneness among believers across divisions so that, “the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:21). Our unity amidst diversity is a powerful witness.
To avoid being exclusive as a church community, here are some practical tips:
- Welcome new people rather than ignoring them
- Introduce yourself to those you don’t know at church
- Start conversations with people of different ages and backgrounds than you
- Make adjustments to accommodate those with disabilities
- Seek out those who seem lonely or new and make them feel included
- Invite newcomers or visitors over for a meal to get to know them
- Intentionally give opportunities to those not normally in leadership roles
- Be sensitive to music styles, language barriers, clothing differences, and cultural norms
- Provide childcare, transportation, or financial assistance if needed
- Utilize small groups to foster deeper community among diverse people
- Learn about cultures different than your own
- Emphasize our shared identity in Christ rather than differences
- Introduce diversity training and have discussions on discrimination
The Bible calls us beyond just tolerating others. We are to embrace, serve, and love one another as one family in Christ, united by God’s Spirit. When Christians take the lead in showing radical inclusion, it reflects God’s unconditional love for all people, as demonstrated by Jesus.
Throughout Scripture, we find a common theme of inclusivity and impartiality in how we are called to treat others. Jesus set an example of reaching across prejudicial boundaries to love those marginalized by society. The early church united people across ethnicity, social class, and gender in one body of believers. We are warned not to show favoritism or discrimination and to love others as ourselves.
As Christians, we have a responsibility to avoid excluding others based on personal bias or preferences. We can take practical steps to foster diversity, welcome newcomers, and emphasize our unity in Christ above differences. This allows the church to reflect God’s unconditional love and advances His kingdom. While differences will remain, we must see beyond these to value each person as an image-bearer of God.
- Jesus set an example of embracing those excluded and marginalized by society
- The early church united across ethnicity, culture, gender, and social status
- We are to avoid favoritism, bias, and discrimination in the church
- Loving others is one of the greatest commandments for Christians
- Unity amidst diversity in the church displays God’s love to the world