When I stumbled upon this quote from Karl Barth, one of the 20th century’s greatest theologians, this past week, it stopped me in my tracks:
“This much is certain, that we have no theological right to set any sort of limits to the loving-kindness of God which has appeared in Jesus Christ. Our theological duty is to see and understand it as being still greater than we had seen before.”
We have no right to set any sort of limit to the loving-kindness of God! Imagine how different the history of the church would have been if people of faith had not spent so much time setting limits on God’s love, trying to decide who was in or out or who was worthy to receive the blessings of Christian community. Just imagine if all that time and energy that was spent on line drawing and limit setting was spent extending the love and kindness to as many people as possible, especially those who needed it the most. The history of the church and, dare I say, the history of our world would have been very different.
The message of Christmas is really pretty radical. We claim that in Jesus Christ a clear message has been sent: God’s loving-kindness truly knows no bounds! That is what Jesus did during his earthly ministry. He hung around with the people who had been told their whole lives they were not acceptable, reminding them that they too were children of God. He ate with the people who had always been denied access to the blessing of fellowship, declaring that God was as present at this table as God was present in the Temple. Frankly, the only people Jesus even really had any problems with were those who used their faith to place limits and boundaries on others, especially those who needed God’s mercy and care the most.
Today, we hear the Christmas angel make a bold declaration, “Behold, I bring you good news of great joy which is for all people!”
All means all. There are no loopholes or exceptions. All people! God’s loving-kindness is meant for all people. That means it is meant for you! That means it is meant for me! That means that God’s loving-kindness is meant for the person sitting next to you this morning, the neighbor down the street, the man living under the bridge, the coworker who annoys you, the immigrant waiting at the border, and the police officer guarding that border.
All means all. God’s loving-kindness is available to all people. That is the heart of the Christmas message.
Grace and Peace,