As faithful readers of this blog will know, we’ve been spending a lot more time reading than writing of late. I believe this is a good thing since that means more learning than teaching. More input than output. Perhaps this is just a phase or maybe a more permanent change of mode. Who knows? Regardless, it seems time for some output. May you be inspired.
It would seem that without realizing it in recent years there has been yet another “movement” occurring in the worldwide collection of Jesus followers (aka the body of Christ). When I first heard it labelled earlier this month it rang true but I must admit that the thought had never occurred to me that it was a defined movement of any kind. Many have likely been sensing it without realizing they were living in it and more importantly dealing daily with the implications of it. What I am speaking of is the “Inclusion Movement”. Before explaining it, first a short recent history of major movements connected to Jesus followers in my lifetime. This will be brief and certainly not a thorough look at each. Note that each movement, while having a beginning, never really ends but is superseded by the increasing emphasis on what follows, relegating it to the background. Still existing but now part of accepted practice or culture.
Charismatic Movement – The gifts of the Holy Spirit (e.g. prophecy, healing, deliverance, tongues, etc.) did not die out in the 1st century but are very much active and available today to any Jesus follower who desires them.
Grace Movement – God is fully expressed in Jesus and is very much like the father in the Prodigal Son story, searching and welcoming all to return to Him, regardless of what they have done or their current condition. There is nothing they can our have done that would make them unacceptable to Him. God is always in a good mood towards everyone, regardless of who they are or what they have done.
Inclusion Movement – Everyone is welcomed by Jesus, regardless of their beliefs, behaviour, political persuasion, sexual orientation, race, gender or religious practice (hopefully I haven’t missed anyone). About now your recognition bell will be going off – “So that is what I have been experiencing lately?”
Some of the most thought provoking folks I have encountered recently are suggesting that we are already transitioning out of the Inclusion Movement into something else. Yikes! I’m only just getting comfortable with the thought that the movement exists at all and it is already time to move on? However, maybe the issue is that labelling something as a movement is just a way we humans comfort ourselves by trying to identify our tribe to assure ourselves we belong somewhere. We need a temple of some kind (whether in physical or in human structures). Hence, Jesus obsession with destroying them.
Before someone brighter than I develops a label for this new movement, I suggest it can be summarized as the Cost of Inclusion. Allow me to explain:
There is no doubt that Jesus was inclusive in the extreme. Not only hanging around women, tax-collectors, lepers, zealots, prostitutes, Samaritans, Roman soldiers (the occupying nation), rich, poor, Pharisees (in private) and drunkards but actually being close enough to warrant the accusation of being their friends. In fact, Jesus went one better by not only befriending these outcasts of society but had the audacity to include them in his inner circle of disciples and traveling band. Uneducated labourers/fishermen (Peter, John, Andrew), tax-collector (Matthew), violent extremist (Simon the Zealot), budding Pharisee (Nathaniel), independent women (Joanna, Mary, Martha) and prostitute (Mary Magdelene) were all part of his closest entourage. Sometimes we become so used to this environment that Jesus intentionally placed himself in that we forget how radical this was in his day. Fast forward to the 21st century and it would not be out of line (as many have suggested) for Jesus to hang out with drug dealers, global warming activists, oil sands executives, LGBTQ’s, evangelical fundamentalists, atheists and even the 1%. The love, power, grace, acceptance and inclusion experienced by all would be tangible and life-changing.
However, as was the case when Jesus walked the earth with the rag-tag bunch he associated with, there is always something more going on or about to be revealed. This inclusive, graceful and loving “God with us” had a habit of saying the strangest things once those included gathered around him.
“Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” John 6:53
“I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.” John 8:24
“One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Mark 10:21
“Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” John 21:8
“Go now and leave your life of sin.” John 8:11
“For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Matthew 12:50
“But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” Luke 13:3
In summary, there is a cost of inclusion. If you hang around Jesus long enough at some point there will be a cost that surfaces which will test how serious you are about continuing to remain in his vicinity. Should you accept the invitation “Come, follow me.” that cost will likely be greater. Many in Jesus day went away sorrowful when they realized that being included by Jesus was not just party time, hugs and healing. There is something about him that just makes it impossible to stay in your current condition.
Every “movement” amongst the worldwide group of Jesus followers addresses the shortcomings and gaps in those that preceded it. What is now happening to some in places like Syria, Nigeria, Libya and Iraq should be a wake-up call to those of us in other places in the world who live in relative comfort and peace. As one of my heroes of the faith, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, said “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die”. He called it the cost of discipleship. Reader, to what or where have you been included to come and die?
There is a cost of inclusion when following the Nazarene. May we all be granted the grace to pay it when asked.