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Hazard ahead! The inclusive call and exclusive path of Christianity

Description: Some Christians are so all-inclusive, anything goes. Some are so exclusive, Christ's teaching is overridden. This blog clarifies the hazards.

The inclusive call and exclusive path of Christianity

Inclusivity and Exclusivity

A good starting point is to clarify what it means to be inclusive and exclusive, but definitions alone aren't enough. More important are the implications of embracing one approach over the other, or whether it’s more appropriate to seek compromise.


Inclusivity

Inclusivity has a variety of contexts, but fundamentally involves not excluding anyone based on gender, race, class, sexuality, disability, or any other attribute. On the surface, this seems a reasonable stance for Christians, but there are deeper implications (discussed below).


Exclusivity

Likewise, exclusivity has a variety of contexts. Typically, it involves rejecting those who differ or fail to meet specific criteria, sometimes very narrow criteria. This often leads to a lack of openness and sharing with those excluded – and sometimes to open hostility. At first glance, this doesn't sit well with many Christians, so again the implications need to be considered (discussed below).


Implications of Inclusivity

Our foundation must be set on Jesus himself, not least his Great Commission, i.e. his directive to spread the faith. He specifically urged his followers to make disciples of all nations, baptising in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). This directive is unquestionably inclusive. Jesus didn't specify certain genders, races, classes, or other attributes, yet too many have exploited people differences so as to make others feel vulnerable (or themselves superior). Jesus meant everyone in all nations.


However, Jesus also instructed his followers to teach new disciples to obey his commands (Matthew 28:20). This wasn’t a suggestion. Further, he spoke about entering through the narrow gate, explaining that the broad road leads to destruction, and many take it. Only the narrow road leads to life, and only a few find it (Matthew 7:13-14).


This tells us we really ought to pay close attention to all Jesus taught, most especially because he emphasised that he is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one can come to the Father except through him (John 14:6).


Quite clearly, this statement is inherently exclusive, affirming that salvation is through him alone. Before delving deeper into this, let’s consider the implications of exclusivity.


Implications of Exclusivity

Again, we turn to Jesus and his inclusive directive that the Gospel be preached to everyone (Matthew 28:19). Throughout history, many have preached the message of salvation across the globe. The Gospel has been interpreted, reinterpreted, and sometimes misinterpreted; quoted accurately and inaccurately; integrated into various religious practices; and, regrettably, twisted for personal gain.


As well as enlightening great numbers, this has also led to divisive attitudes where individuals believe, “I’m right, and you’re wrong,” followed by, “I reject your views and will have nothing to do with you.” Such exclusivity breeds division, hatred, and violence; it stems from human pride, not Jesus' teachings.


However, there's an eternal (as distinct from human) dimension to exclusivity. While Jesus’ invitation to believe is universal, the narrow path to salvation is exclusive to those who follow him.


Human free will

In his holiness, God knew that human free will would inevitably lead to sin, separating us from his divine presence. Yet, overwhelming love is central to his desire that all people be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4).


It’s been said that God can’t bear to look at our sin, yet cannot bear to look away due to his love. Whereas this may have a certain ring to it, we should remember that the Holy Spirit dwells within us.


He is certainly grieved by our sin (Ephesians 4:30), but Jesus is our reconciliation and salvation, so we will never be abandoned (or looked away from). Despite being divine, Jesus took on human form, lived a sinless, selfless, obedient life, and died a sacrificial death, paving our way to the Father by destroying the devil’s work (1 John 3:8).


Conclusion

Inclusivity and exclusivity in Christianity are not inherently contradictory, but proper context is important. The invitation to salvation is universally inclusive – open to all. However, the path of following Jesus, symbolised by the narrow gate, is exclusive to those who accept him as their saviour.


Ultimately, the balance lies in welcoming everyone to the faith while faithfully adhering to Jesus' teachings, and recognising that the journey to salvation requires a devoted, singular path through him. Yet, as always and in all things, God will have the final word, and that always centres on his all-inclusive love.




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