"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
"He said to ALL, 'If ANY person'..."
(Amplified Bible - my emphasis).
It is apparent that everyone is
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
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
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
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
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).