By His ministry and His teaching, Jesus urged a radical inclusiveness. All who sought His attention with honest motives—whether women with bad reputations, tax collectors, lepers, Samaritans, Roman centurions, religious leaders, or children—He welcomed with genuine warmth and care. As the early church was to discover in transformative ways, this included the offer of the gift of salvation.
As the first believers slowly recognized the inclusiveness of the gospel, they were not merely adding good works for others onto their faith as a “nice” thing to do. It was core to their understanding of the gospel, as they had experienced it in the life, ministry, and death of Jesus. As they wrestled with the issues and questions that arose, first individually for leaders such as Paul and Peter (see, for example, Acts 10:9-20), then as a church body at the Jerusalem council (see Acts 15), they began to realize the dramatic shift this good news had brought into their understanding of God’s love and inclusiveness and how that should be lived out in the lives of those who profess to follow Him.
What do each of the following texts teach us about our common humanity? How should each idea influence our attitude toward others?
Galatians 3:28 is a theological summary of the practical story Jesus told about the good Samaritan. Rather than arguing about who we are obligated to serve, just go and serve, and perhaps even be prepared to be served by those we might not expect to serve us. The common element of the global human family is realized at a higher level in the common family of those who are bound together by the gospel, by the saving love of God that calls us to oneness in Him: “For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free” (1 Cor. 12:13, NIV).