Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Included or Excluded

Much is written and spoken about church and its ability to include or exclude, often its said it needs to be more inclusive of people especially those marginalized or discriminated against. A big problem is that belief, by its very nature, can act as a barrier as can be the ways we enact our faith.

Recently on holiday my wife and I visited "Le Mont Saint Michel" in France. A picturesque abbey on a spit of land, the Abbey is used by a small community of Monks and Nuns who celebrate services there. When we reached the main chapel, they were celebrating communion - taking bread and wine - in a sectioned off part. Others of the Roman Catholic faith were able to join them in this. Being Baptists that excluded us so we sat in the main church and listened and watched. However we were not really excluded, no we didn't share in the bread and wine, but we were there with other Christians who choose to observe their faith differently to us.

 It got me thinking as I sat there, what would others who had no faith make of it all would they feel included or excluded?

For me one of the signal features of Jesus' earthly ministry was touching the lives of those who were often the excluded of society, lepers, prostitutes, non Jews, tax collectors and so on. However he did not just touch their lives he highlighted their sin (wrong doing) - "leave your life of sin" he said to the adulteress; "your sins are forgiven" he said to another who wanted healing; give up your wealth he said to another. Jesus heralded a kingdom open to all but as he said to Nicodemus you must be born again, the old life must be transformed into new life in Christ. Exclusive entry, all have the same choice, not all will choose life in Christ.

Like Christ we must be open to all, allowing each person to recognize and understand the choice that Christ lays before each of us. We don't know if the adulterous woman reformed or if the rich man gave up his wealth but if they had never been included by Jesus, they would not have been challenged by the need to change and so be set free by the truth. The truth of the gospel is powerful in its challenge but wont be heard if we, Christ's church, are not inclusive. We must allow all no matter what their previous life choices may have been, to hear it. The kingdom of God is exclusive but is open to all, accepting Christ is the condition of inclusion.

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