A friend raised this video and asked for some feedback about it. Here are the words to the song:
“Go in the joy of knowing that you have been included.
Included at the table.
Included at God’s table.
Included in our common life.
Included in the life of God;
In the Life shared by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Go in the joy of knowing that you have been included in the inner life of the God who is love.
Go, find joy in telling others that they too are included!
Go, find joy in bringing all to God’s table!
Do not be afraid…
for God has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.
You are included.”
My reply to this video centres on my view that God’s orientation toward human beings involves both affirmation and critique.
“Affirmation” in the sense that we are God’s good creation and that God seeks a love relationship, based on truth, with every human being (and yes, this view “cuts back” against some denominational stances that would see God’s interest in relationship limited by anything other than human willingness to be oriented toward truth and love, and thus accept God’s offer of relationship).
“Critique” in the sense that certain aspects of human nature are innate obstacles to entering into right relationship with God (and thus to be able to be rightly oriented to ourselves, to others, and to the created world around us). In other words, human beings have been created to function best when in right relationship with God,
So I appreciate and value the focus on inclusivity (and affirmation) that this video presents. I value this particularly in the simplicity and diversity of the people who attend this meal. I also value the focus on joy, which is part of one’s response to being included. Yet I have some reservations about this video as well. Here are three.
First, the video is oriented toward a context of “the table,” so I get the sense that they are either speaking in relation to the eucharist or are using this table metaphor to be God’s celebration or God’s way of being (to this end they reference being included “in the life shared by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit”).
The eucharist (or “the Lord’s table”) is something that I too believe to be inclusive but it is inclusive to all Christians, not to all people. Similarly, we are included to be part of existence in and with God to the extent that we as human have accepted this invitation—to the extent that we have decided to enter into relationship with God and are trying to live our lives according to this primary orientation.
Second, the video seems to promote joy as both our response to being at the table and our impetus to (and response from) telling others that they too are included. Yet if joy is a result of our relationship with God, it is not the core or the basis for that relationship. Rather, we are to love God entirely—and to love God in and through the context of a relationship where we seek to know more and more about the truth of who / what God is, who / what we are as human beings, and how the two are best to relate.1
In other words, joy is derived from living in a love relationship with God, based on truth. Likewise the video’s comment about “God has chose gladly to give you the kingdom.” This is potentially misleading, almost as though God gives Christians God’s own kingdom as some form gift, rather than God giving us access to God’s kingdom a) as a place for this love relationship with God to develop ongoingly, and b) on the basis of our continued action of prioritizing this love relationship with God above all others, which is the accurate sense (see for example Luke 12:22-40).
Third and most problematically, the video offers nothing about critique. It is as if our entire relationship with God, each other, and the world around us is based on inclusion (and thus affirmation). Yet frankly there are parts of me that God ultimately rejects. Without understanding that I am affirmed yet critiqued I risk wrongly orienting myself to God, to myself, to others, and to the world around me. Stated somewhat differently, grace reigns but sin matters!
In my view, then, this video is beautiful presented but partial: it is very one-sided. And while many Christians may see this video and automatically “fill in” the gap that is this absence of critique, my guess is that many others won’t. Worse, non-Christians seeing this may naturally take this to be full (if concise) presentation of what it means to be in relationship with God. And as far as I can see, it is not.
So I while I value a number of things about this video I would seek to offer, to Christians and non-Christians alike, a presentation whose balanced nature allows both Christians to embrace their relationship with God more truly and to present this relationship to others more fully. And above all, to remind us—and proclaim to others—the true reasons for joy at this prospect: God loves us more deeply than we love ourselves and knows us more truly than we know ourselves.
In other words, out of this deep love and true knowledge we can be the people that we most hope to be—our “best selves” as the best parents, children, friends, etc. that we can (and are meant to) be. So in being loved by God (and loving God in return) we are able to be the sort of selves that can truly love, and who can truly—and rightly—love others.
And in my books, that’s something to be joyful for.