JAC Online

Exclusive Inclusion
by Commissioner Clive Adams


"Inclusivity" is one of the watchwords of our day because the concept has become important in our growing awareness of the need for equality and social justice... a need which is made apparent by the almost daily exposures of inequality and injustice: in society... in politics... in business... in the church.


Today's readings include a passage that prompted me to reflect on this concept of inclusion, but in a very different way to what has become trendy.  In Luke 9:23, Jesus has inclusiveness as his starting point:


"He said to ALL, 'If ANY person'..." (Amplified Bible - my emphasis). 


It is apparent that everyone is invited. 


Salvationist belief is in keeping with this truth.  We believe that God's salvation plan - realised through the death of Jesus on the cross - is for the whole world (John 3:16), and that whoever believes in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord and opens her/his life to Jesus (John 1:12) becomes a beneficiary of God's salvation and a child of God.  So, from our very beginnings, inclusion, inclusiveness, and inclusivity (all slight variations of the same concept) was not only our belief, but our practice.  Our history demonstrates this:  No one was beyond redemption and Booth enjoined his troops to "go for the worst". 


Thus, prostitutes, drunkards, gamblers, and criminals stood alongside professional people and citizens of 'good standing', testifying in our open-air rings about the transforming power of Jesus.  It is a practice based on sound theological and biblical ground.  ALL are welcome... ALL are included.


But Jesus places a condition on that inclusive invitation to discipleship:


"...If any person WILLS to come after Me, LET him deny himself - disown himself, forget, lose sight of himself and his own interests, refuse and give up himself - and TAKE up his cross daily and FOLLOW Me - cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying also." Luke 9:23 Amplified (my emphasis)


This is not a simple inclusiveness.  This is conditional... there is an exclusion-clause... you have to fulfill the conditions if you want to be included... if not, you're excluded!  At the end of the chapter (Luke 9:57-62), Jesus demonstrates - from everyday life - how this exclusive clause could function in the context of daily life:


- vv 57-58... an unwillingness to "rough it" (as the Message renders v58), excludes!


- vv 59-60... an unwillingness to drop everything immediately, excludes!


- vv 61-62... an unwillingness to leave the past behind, excludes!


It's an exclusive inclusiveness!


In recent years, salvationists have begun to employ this term in a way that concerns me.  There seems to have been a shift away from our former biblically grounded belief as to what inclusion means.  We understood that Scripture places a condition on becoming saved.  We knew that there was an exclusivity which was linked - inextricably - to our message of inclusion.  We sang that belief regularly when I was a child:


"Whosoever WILL may come..." (my emphasis). 


The ready inclusion - i.e. acceptance of the "whosoever", and their entrance into God's family/the Body of Christ/the local corps fellowship - was exclusive to those who chose to receive.  Contrary to what is being implied by some, and even preached by others, there is no universal salvation, and, by theological consequence, there is no universal access to the Body of Christ.  We cannot accept all, because all do not belong... We cannot accept all, because God excludes some - to start off, those who do not wish to accept the invitation... those who do not "WILL to come".


I'm grateful to God for his great grace that WHOEVER can be included.  I am guarded about presuming to ignore God's exclusive right to determine what conditions he places on such inclusivity.  I pray that, as a leader, I may be guided by the Spirit to determine which conditions are ecclesiastical as opposed to being essential (i.e. divinely ordained).










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