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Rev. Dr. Richard Howell

Good Friday reminds us of Jesus, whose sacrificial death is a radical act of obedience to God and a demonstration of his loving care for humans and all of creation! The gospels make it crystal clear; the followers of Christ must put their faith in action. We need to reflect does our life portray: radical obedience to God and loving care for others and creation. We live "by faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us," (Galatians 2:20). At the Lord's Supper we remember Jesus who gave his body for us so that we would be shaped in his image, (1 Corinthians 11:24).

How then do we practice our faith in society torn apart with innumerable issue? In this article we consider one basic issue of exclusion.

God created us in a network of relations of interdependence.  In creation, God binds us who are created from the dust of the ground, to the rest of creation as caretakers of it. God also binds humans to himself as bearers of his image, and to each other as perfect compliment. If you are married, do you remember, the pastor said after pronouncing you as husband and wife:  "Therefore what God has joined together let man not separate" (Mathew 19:6)! Husband and wife complement each other in relationship of mutuality of receiving and giving. Our creation by god makes up dependent upon God, who is the source of all life and interdependent upon one another.

The goal of sin is to violently rearrange the pattern of interdependence in all our relationships. We separate what God has joined and join what God has separated.

What then is exclusion? Taking oneself away from the relationship of interdependence and placing oneself as an independent ruler. We all are tempted and often commit the sin of self-sufficiency, forgetting our interdependent status. This sinful activity of rearranging is called exclusion.

Sin has many names, some prominent candidates are: greed, sensuality, pride, violence, ignorance. However "Exclusion" explains a good many sins we commit, yet the practice of exclusion often passes as a virtue, chiefly in religious circles.

 When we exclude people the other person may emerge as our enemy, who must be pushed far away, be disregarded or abandoned. For example on the scale of hierarchy of purity and pollution, as propagated by Brahaminism, the high caste Brahmin is considered pure and while the low caste Dalit is impure; there cannot be any mutuality of giving and receiving in caste hierarchy.

During Jesus' day, "sinners," were not simply "the wicked," who were therefore considered far from God, but also social outcastes, people who practiced despised trade, Gentiles and Samaritans, those who failed to keep Law as interpreted by a particular sect. were labelled as 'sinners' by some religious leaders. A "righteous" person was expected to separate himself from the "sinners," for it was believed their presence defiled because they are defiled. Even in the 21st century Dalits are excluded from social occasions for they are considered as defiled.