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 two previous posts we’ve been considering the story of the Rich Young Man’s encounter with Jesus. We discussed the story itself and then in the last post we looked at two major errors Christians make in thinking about money. Today I want to start with the idea that we need to start with ourselves before we judge others.
One of the problems in our society is that we like to create groups of people and then judge the groups that we don’t see ourselves in. This is true in many aspects of our lives but I think money is a great example and it’s the theme of this thought we are in right now.
You hear all the time about wealth or income inequality, the 1%, the 10% and so on. We talk about people that have an income over a certain amount. Mostly we like to judge whatever group has more than us.
Today I want to continue to think about how we view history as a Christian. Last time I wrote about the idea that we are called to love the dead. In other words when we study people of the past we are called to study them with love in our hearts towards them. Each and every person who has ever lived was created in the image of God. When Jesus says to love our neighbor that includes everyone. It includes our enemy. It includes every person in history. Basically the idea is that the dead are our neighbors and we should treat them as such.
That alone is a major game changer. It means that I don’t get to sit in some sort of superior, self righteous place as I judge the people of the past. It means we should not act as if we are better, smarter or somehow more morally superior to those in the past. Because quite clearly we are not. Any fair reading of history along with any fair assessment of our own culture will tell you this. And that goes for all cultures.
This leads me to my second thought on how we should view history from a Christian worldview. This is also going to be uncomfortable by the way. Here it is. We should read history as if we are the perpetrators.
A few weeks ago I wrote a 5 part study on the parable of the Samaritan. Following that in a related post we looked at the idea of what it might mean to love our enemies. In a way this all points toward the idea of loving our neighbor.
Jesus uses the parable of the Samaritan in response to a Jewish lawyer who had asked what the greatest commandment was. Jesus answered that the greatest commandment was to love God with all of our heart, strength and mind. The second follows; that is to love our neighbor. The lawyer then asks who is our neighbor. Jesus uses the parable to make the point that every person, yes even our enemy, is our neighbor.
Today I want to look at what we might call Christian leadership. Really at the end of the day that should be our goal as believers if we want to lead. This is not as simple as “lead like Jesus” although obviously we want to look at Jesus who was without a doubt the greatest, most effective leader of all time. And He still is.
So what does it mean to be a Christian leader? How do we do it?
Think about the following short list of people who could be considered great leaders in history. People who were effective by my working definition of effective leadership: “An effective leader is someone who has followers and gets them, through his/her leadership, to accomplish something. The more followers they have and/or the greater the accomplishment; the more effective the leader.” Some of these are more moral than others but we’ll leave out the completely immoral examples. Here’s the list:
Martin Luther King Jr
Pope John Paul II
Joan of Arc
Now I could list a ton more people in every context. Religious, business, countries and causes. This is just a few that came to mind right away that I think most people would say had a huge impact. They had lots of followers and accomplished real change in their context.
Obviously most of us, or more accurately probably none of us, will be on any future list like this. But I think we can learn something here about leadership from these folks. What do they have in common? What made them effective leaders?
I’m blessed to have a lot of different types of friends from different walks of life. Lately I’ve been asking some of them on social media questions about their opinions of leadership. It’s been really good to hear different perspectives on who people see as a great leader, who they think is an effective leader and what they think constitutes good measurements of effective leadership.
As I shared last time, I think we often seem to lump a lot of different things into the idea of leadership and because of that sort of overthink it. It’s not that any of these ideas are bad. I’m just not sure they are leadership in the purest form of the word. Also a lot of times they don’t really add up. We mention things that we think make a great leader but then we mention “great” leaders that frankly don’t exhibit many of those things. This is especially true when we list great world leaders.
The other day I was happened on a video win which Dave Ramsey was talking with Anthony ONeal about a recent dating experience he had. First a quick background in case you are not familiar with Ramsey and his people. The short version is that they help people get out of and stay out of debt. Anthony works with younger folks and is a young single man. One of the keys to getting and staying out of debt is having a budget . . . that you actually follow. I’ve talked before about as a single person having a “dating” line item in your budget. Suffice it to say that if you are single and want to date, then why not have a budget for that.
At any rate, here’s the story. Anthony goes out with a young woman on a date. They have a good time. At the end of the date they both want there to be a second date. The woman suggested that she would really like to go to a particular restaurant in town. Anthony says he will look into it.
One of the problems in our culture when it comes to singleness is that the word single is too broad. It means far too many things. As I’ve stated before here, this is especially a problem in Christian culture because there are varying scriptural instructions for different groups of unmarried people. There are at least the following biblical examples of marital status: The married, the divorced, the widowed, those not yet married, those celibate by birth, those celibate because of the fall of man and those who are called and choose Celibacy for the Kingdom. Needless to say, all of these are different.
But in our culture we have added a group that amazingly I’ve never directly addressed here at the blog. That is those couples that live in cohabitation.
Recently I’ve been thinking some about virtue. That is, what is virtuous and what isn’t. For example, I’ve written about how being “nice” is not a virtue while being good is. All of this may seem like semantics or splitting hairs but it’s more than that. How we view these things impacts how we live our lives. It impacts how we view ourselves and our context, including if our context happens to be singleness. I want to tackle a few more of these thoughts in the context of singleness.
Today I want to talk bout the idea of meekness. Meekness is indeed a virtue. So much so in fact that Jesus says in Matthew 5 that the meek shall inherit the earth. But we are very confused in our culture, even in our Christian culture, about what meekness is.