Values for the Church & Her Leaders (part 4): Inclusive

Values for the Church & Her Leaders (part 4): Inclusive January 19, 2011

A fourth value of biblical leadership within the church is that of being inclusive.  To summarize: “There are no prerequisites to grace and love.”  This value goes hand in hand with all of the others and could have very easily been a sub-category of missional or community, but in my opinion this is one that should be distinguished on its own.  Inclusive is an understanding that the message of God’s grace is for everyone, and it is also the recognition that no one should ever be excluded from the community. Christ-followers are called to tear down the walls of separation that this culture has built to divide us from one another. God’s beautiful and upside-down grace is offered to all people in all places and at all times; therefore we are called to love people and offer them grace no matter what wrongs they have committed.  This is not the condoning of destructive behavior, habits, or lifestyles; but the conviction that God’s grace can change lives.  Our calling is to follow the model of God who loved us before we ever chose to respond to him.  God is patient with people “wishing that all will come to repentance.”  We are invited to choose love over judgment.[1]

The rest of this series can be read here.

[1] See: 1 John 4.19; 2 Peter 3.9; Ephesians 5.1-2; Matthew 7.1-5; James 4.11-12; Ephesians 2.11-22; Galatians 3.26-29; Colossians 3.11

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  • JM

    "…and it is also the recognition that no one should ever be excluded from the community. "

    Kurt, this seems to be the exact opposite of a number of NT passages where exclusion is the primary means by which someone is to be dealt with in hopes that by being "noninclusive" the church will show the wanton sinner exactly what it is he/she is rejecting through their disobedience to the Gospel's message of transformation and sanctification. Just because such practices have been abused by churches doesn't mean that they are to be ignored or rejected by the faithful.

    The entire 5th chapter of 1Corinthians is specifically devoted to a command to exclude:

    "It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man has his father's wife. 2 And you are proud! Shouldn't you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? 3 For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. 4 So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, 5 hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the sinful nature so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.

    6 Your boasting is not good. Don't you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? 7 Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch–as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

    9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people–10 not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 11 But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with any who claim to be fellow believers but are sexually immoral or greedy, idolaters or slanderers, drunkards or swindlers. With such persons do not even eat. 12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. "Expel the wicked person from among you."" (1Co 5:1-13 TNIV)

    Scripture calls us to the balance between inclusivity towards all and exclusivity towards those "inside" who blatantly reject the demands of Christ on their lives yet desire to remain within His people.

    • Kurt

      JM – Here I am talking about "inclusive" towards outsiders, not those who are already in vibrant relationship to Jesus. Maybe that would help?

      The above passage is about church discipline and I agree that we must be 'exclusive' on such matters, but choosing 'love over judgment' is much different than church discipline for the 'insiders.'

      • JM

        Cool. I didn't get that caveat from your original post, but since that's what you're talking about then I'm on board. 🙂

        • Kurt

          Ya… I need to rework my language some. I see your point.

  • God is indeed gracious to all, sending rain on the righteous and the evil regardless, but I think there is a pre-requisite for mercy (i.e. forgiveness). It's available to all who call on God to forgive them, in this life or the next. IMHO all will avail themselves of this though: all are judged, all require mercy, all will be saved.

    • "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

      "Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you."

      Seems pretty obvious that our job isn't to withhold and wait for repentance, but to be living lives of mercy.

  • jean

    Key verses for modelling an inclusive community are :

    – the narratives of the conversion of Cornelius (or of Peter's conversion to God's love for all humanity) found in Acts 10 and twice repeated in Acts 11 and 15 ; there is a challenging question of going beyond the Law but the motivation for that is that none is impure in God's sight … challenging because christians have played for long to reestablish the lines of purity and impurity …

    – the way Paul deals with disagreements over opinions in Romans 14, ending with beautiful injunction in Ro 15:7 : "welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you" ; to me this is the surest foundation for christian fellowship rooted in the sole grace of God. Paul's vision of a church where christians could decide according to their own conscience what is the right thing to honor the authority of Christ and leave judgements and pressures aside seems to me as unattained goal for the church as a whole – due the strength of parties … Quite challenging in the anabaptist tradition I cherish to envision as diversity as key word in spite of uniformity …

    I'm not really sure how that articulates with church discipline ; from my own experience I've seen most christians feeling more at home with discipline that excludes rather than embracing brothers and sisters in their diversity …

    And if any question raises about how's and why's it is written from the perspective of a christian who happens to live in a committed relationship with another man ….

  • jean

    correction : Quite challenging in the anabaptist tradition I cherish to envision diversity as key word and not uniformity …