I’ve seen a lot of conversions (or arguments might be a better word) about the inclusivity of Christianity. Some say that Jesus was all inclusive. Others say that it is a narrow road and that the Kingdom is actually very exclusive. I want to offers some thoughts on this.
First I think that our current culture inclusivity it a sort of virtue. It seems that many want everyone to be included in everything. There is a lot good about this idea. Far too often people have been left out, or even kept out, of opportunities and experiences that they should not have been. That’s a fair critique of parts of our society. So everyone wants everyone to be included. I think that’s a good desire.
The flip side of this is that not everyone is the same. People don’t all have the same skills, talents and even desires. And, no matter how we might try to rig society we will never have equal outcomes for all. It’s literally impossible and extremely unreasonable. And frankly a dangerous plan.
But the real question as a Christian is what does Jesus teach and what does He say about the Kingdom in this regard? Here are my thoughts.
In a couple of ways the Kingdom is completely inclusive. One of the scandals of the gospel that Jesus spoke is that it threw open the Kingdom to everyone regardless of their status or standing in society. It was no longer only for the religious leaders or even only for the Jewish people. It was now open to the unmarried, the poor, those who had a “sinful” lifestyle. Male or female, slave or free, greek or jew, the doors of the Kingdom are open.
Another way that is inclusive, that we don’t like to talk about, is that the commandments are also for everyone, not just the religious elite. Everyone is to love your neighbor. And guess what, everyone is your neighbor; even your enemy. Everyone is to seek righteousness. Everyone is accountable.
The bottom line here is that the invitation of Christianity is open to absolutely anyone. Salvation is available to all. God loves everybody. So in that sense Christianity is inclusive.
However, not everyone get’s a trophy at the end. This is extremely clear in the scriptures. There is no way to read the gospels and think that everyone is in.
For starters Jesus says that He is the way the truth and the life. Notice He doesn’t say that He is a way or a truth. He says that no one comes to the Father except through Him. He states that the road to the heaven is narrow not wide. In parable after parable He states that some are in and some are not. He says that we will be judged and some will not get in.
No one without Jesus can get in. Now it’s not our job to determine who is in or out. God will do that. Not only that but it’s clear that some we would think are in won’t be and some who we think our out, will be in. It’s arrogant for us to think we know who is in and out. But it’s also arrogant to think that everyone is in regardless. What we are really saying then is that we are all in regardless. And that is big time dangerous.
So Christianity is inclusive in this way. Everyone can enter. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, what color you are, what your social status is, what your marital status is, how much you have or don’t have, whether you are male or female. All are welcome. But not everyone is or will be in the Kingdom. There is a judgement and some will have eternal life and others eternal damnation. It will be based on what we did with the inclusive invitation.
What this means for us is that we need to invite everyone. This starts with loving everyone by the way. We should never see anyone as too far gone or outside of God’s grace at this moment. But we should not preach a gospel that says we don’t have to respond and repent. That’s being dishonest about what the gospel offers. It’s not helping anyone to tell them they are good to go no matter what. That’s not loving people.
In other words Christianity is inclusive in the invitation but exclusive depending on the response to the invitation.
Heaven will be extremely diverse. But it won’t include everyone.