outsiders in

(Luke 11:29-32) 29 As the crowds increased, Jesus said, “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. 30 For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation. 31 The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom; and now something greater than Solomon is here. 32 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and now something greater than Jonah is here.”

It has been said that prophecy always ‘comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable’.  One of the stronger themes in Luke’s ‘prophetic’ gospel is the ‘afflicting’ of the comfortable and exclusive religious elite (Pharisees, Scribes, etc.), and the ‘comforting’ of the afflicted and excluded religious rejects (poor, blind, sinners, Gentiles, etc.).  In Luke, the excluders get excluded, and the excluded get included.

In theology, the doctrine of soteriology (salvation – soterian [salvation] + logos [word]) in particular, there are, broadly speaking, the following views that most Christians have held about how “the final judgment” will go for humanity:

  • Exclusivism: Because God’s love and grace through Christ are accessed and activated by “faith alone”, a person has to make a conscious decision to trust in Christ and be saved.
  • Inclusivism: Because God’s love and grace through Christ is enough for and is offered to all humans, God is able to save apart from a conscious decision to trust Christ.
  • (Christian) Universalism: God’s love and grace through Christ are and will be so overwhelmingly powerful that every human person will eventually accept and receive the saving Grace of Christ.

In the passage above, Jesus not only mentions “the judgment”, but clearly describes the contrasting fates of “this (wicked) generation”, who will be condemned, and the “Queen of the South (or Sheba)” and the “men of Nineveh”, who will do the condemning.  These are not ‘insiders’.

The Queen was so far from Jerusalem that she is described as traveling “from the ends of the earth” to listen to Solomon’s wisdom.  We have no record of her ever becoming a Torah-observant Jew, but simply giving a ‘blessing’ to Solomon’s God.  The Ninevites were Assyrians, who also did not become Torah-observant Jews, but they did “repent at the preaching of Jonah”, and in the book of Jonah are said to have “believed God”.

The key point is that, whilst all Christians affirm that Old Testament ‘insiders’ (Abraham, Moses, Daniel, Isaiah, etc.) will be saved, this passage has Jesus going a step further: even ‘outsiders’ whose hearts and actions show themselves to be oriented toward God will be saved.

It may be because I am an inclusivist, but this seems to me to be in huge support of of inclusivism.  (Other passages will be tagged for the other options of course)  Reading passages like this, I am led to believe that plenty of “non-Christians” will be ‘in’; and conversely, plenty that identify as Christian are in danger of being ‘out’ (Matthew 25).