To the church of God in Corinth [sic] (Fredericksburg) to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ – their Lord and ours.” – I Corinthians 1:2
I have lately been pondering the word inclusive. In recent years it is a word used frequently in the culture at large, and more particularly in the church. As in, “we need to be more inclusive.” It is a good word, a useful word, of course. But what strikes me as interesting is that this word so frequently used by Christians, as a kind of representative litmus test concept for the Church and faith is nowhere found in the Bible. To cut to the chase, I suppose what makes me nervous about using inclusiveness as our primary mission is that it might make it very difficult to say no to some particular ideas and behaviors that, in your most honest moments you might think should not be included.
The Apostle Paul says, “Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible, but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek their own good, but the good of others.” I Corinthians 10: 23-24.
I would suggest that a more Biblical and helpful approach would be to say that everyone is invited. Everyone is invited to explore a life lived with the Crucified and Resurrected Christ. Everyone.
Everyone is invited to join us in this journey with Christ, even if at this moment they don’t seem very Christian to us.
Everyone is invited to join us in Christian community, even if at this moment we can’t imagine being in true community with them.
Everyone is invited to join us in contemplating the Cross, as we together look honestly at our own sin and our own need for redemption.
Everyone is invited to join us as we pray for the Holy Spirit to put to death the sin in our lives, and to set us free from all bondage.
Everyone is invited to join us in seeking Resurrection Life that replaces worldly cynicism, pessimism, and hopelessness.
Everyone is invited, because everyone is made in the image of God, treasured by God, even if right now they do not look very godly.
Everyone is invited because we need their insight, wisdom, and guidance, though right now we might assume we already know all we need to know.
Everyone is invited to join us as together we seek transformation of our hearts, our spirit, our very lives.
And thank God for everyone, but cause that means, as I said in a Walk to Emmaus talk years ago, that everyone means me. That even Aggies get to be a part of the Kingdom of God. Now that really is grace, amen?
Lately I have had the blessing of returning to my roots. One week I was the guest preacher at First UMC in Marlin Texas. That was the town and the church I grew up in, the church that gave me such a good foundation for the faith. The next Sunday (May 5) I attended Oak Hill UMC in Austin as they celebrated their 40th anniversary. This is the church that helped me find faith as a young adult, and the place where I first began to discern my calling to ordained ministry. All of this reminds me of my deep gratitude for everyone who has blessed, encouraged, challenged, and supported this journey.
Grace and Peace,