All. One of the shortest words in the entire English language. And yet it seems we spend so much time and effort to determine just what it means? Merriam-Webster Online offers several definitions depending on grammatical usage - noun, adverb, pronoun, etc. - but it boils down to essentially this:
1 a: the whole amount, quantity, or extent of
2: every member or individual component of
3: the whole number or sum of
With news that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) will be introduced into the Senate, the issue of "all" will once again be raised. The House passed a version that was not "all" - it added Sexual Orientation to the job protections laws of the federal government, but not Gender Identity. Now, I will first firmly state why did we need to add Sexual Orientation in the first place? Don't our laws apply equally to "all"? Nope. We need to keep defining what "all" means, I guess. In fact, its a rather bizarre twist that the Fourteenth Amendment begins with the word "all"! But in the course of our societal and governmental development we have needed to add gender and race and marital status and religion and creed to the protections of "all" that are suggested in all our laws by this portion of the Constitution.
And the same thing happens within our Christian faiths. The oft-cited John 3:16 - essentially the invitation, the promise of becoming Christian - says:
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (KJV).
"Whosoever" is just a longer version of the word "All". It doesn't hold any additional conditions, codicils, amendments or qualifications. Whosoever.
But there are so many people of faith who then spend so much of their ecclesiastical efforts defining just "who" of "Whosoever" they will allow to participate within their house. Some limit the participation of women. Some have a past of excluding people of color. Some prioritize which "sins" eliminate someone, and which apparently don't (aren't we all "sinners"????). And, of course, there a some who condemn and denounce people like me and those who are gay, lesbian or bisexual.
The promise of God's salvation and grace is not based upon our being, or trying to be, perfect. It is offered knowing that we cannot be perfect.
All. Pretty simple word, if you only let it be what it truly means.