I always found the early church somewhat amusing, they really struggled with the concept that Jesus came not only to save the people of Israel but the whole world. Even when they accepted that the Gentiles could become Christians, they wanted to force them into the mold of 1st Century Judaism (no doubt caused by the nation’s trauma of exile). Ritual and legalism had become the wall the Jews put up to “protect” them from God’s displeasure and some in the early church clung to the legalism.
Psalm 87 makes it clear, the people of the world were not to be excluded from God. Instead they become a part of God’s people. Legalism in the early church threatened to exclude all except those that toed the line of Jewish custom. Paul bristled at this. The legalism of Jerusalem was keeping out the very people God promised would become part of Jerusalem and that was spilling into the Church.
Paul tells the Romans salvation is available to all but it doesn’t come through ritual, it doesn’t come through us doing something right. “This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Paul says it many times throughout his life, ”there is no difference” (for example, Romans 10:12, 1 Corinthians 12:13, Galatians 3:28, Ephesians 2:11-22).
We feel great emptiness when we exclude people in our lives. The family of God includes people from all walks of life; race, beliefs, gender, finance, social norms and practices. When we exclude people in our lives, we are excluding ourselves from the family of God; there is no wonder if we feel emptiness. But when we embrace the family of God, when we truly belong to the family, we will find ourselves singing with our Family the Psalm
Praise the LORD, all you nations. Praise him, all you people of the earth. For his unfailing love for us is powerful; the LORD’s faithfulness endures forever. Praise the LORD! -Psalm 117