God Is More Inclusive Than You Think
Christianity gets a bad rep for excluding others from their “circle.” Christians are sometimes called intolerant because they have strict and narrow views and therefore cannot tolerate anything that opposes them. The coexist symbol tries to break that and bring all religions together so that we could live peacefully. However, the cross actually can’t coexist. Why? Because the cross makes exclusive claims. You can read more about that here. What I am attempting to show you is that the God of the Bible is in fact inclusive and more so than you think. I will go as far as to say that he is the only one who is rightly inclusive. First, I will show inclusivity implies exclusivity. Second, I will present how God is both exclusive and inclusive, without contradiction. Third, I will make the case that you must respond to the inclusivity of God.
Inclusivity Implies Exclusivity
What does it mean to be inclusive? It’s actually in the word, right? Included, that is being a part of something, whether that be a sports team or business team. You are included in that group. When you were born, you were born into or included in a family. A tight knit group of people, whether biological or adoptive. As you grew older, and even as a young child, you started to gravitate towards a group of people who became your friends. Again, you were a part of that. Your group of particular friends were inclusive, even if unintentionally. Inclusivity implies exclusivity. Here is what I mean.
Let’s use the same examples. If you are on a sports team, it means that you are not on another team. Let’s take baseball here in Chicago for example. There are the Cubs and the White Sox. Same city but different teams, different players, different owners and even different locations. A Cubs player would not play for the White Sox and vice versa (aside from being traded, of course). Why? Each team is exclusive to the other, though inclusive to themselves. If you work for a specific company, you exclude yourself from working for another. When you were born into a family, you were born into a specific family. That is, you were excluded, biologically speaking from being the child of another set of parents. When you put a ring on your spouse’s finger, your marriage is rightly exclusive. Thus, you are saying “no” to everyone else. This shows us that in order to be inclusive, you must also be exclusive.
What about when it comes to religion? If one religion claims to know the true “path,” then it automatically excludes all others. As hard as it may be to accept, all religions cannot be true at the same time. So, when it comes to Christianity there is partial understanding in its exclusivity. The center of Christianity, Jesus, said that he is the way, the truth and the life and that no one comes to the Father except through him (John 14:6). This is an important and exclusive statement because Jesus is saying that he is the only way to God the Father. It is because of this that Christians hold to the reality there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which me must be saved (Acts 4:12).
God is both Inclusive and Exclusive
If Christianity is exclusive because of Jesus’ claim, then how is it possible that it could be inclusive at the same time? Well, I have already showed that there are things that we are a part of that are both inclusive and exclusive at the same time. One implies the other, whether its sports, careers or marriage. This holds true for the God of Christianity as well. God says it himself in the Bible, which is his word.
You might be familiar with the biblical character, Abraham. Before God changed his name to Abraham, he was Abram. God made a promise to him that he would make him into a great nation. Abraham would be a blessing to many people and God would give him many children (Genesis 12 & 15). What’s so important about this? First, God didn't have to do this. This is the God who created the world and everything in it and didn’t need anything (Acts 17:25). He didn’t owe creation anything. In fact, his creatures (humanity) rebelled against him and disobeyed him. All they deserved was death. Second, it already sets up something that we see throughout the Bible, namely nations. You see, God chose Abraham and the nation of Israel to be his people. That sounds exclusive. However, God told Abraham that all nations would be blessed through him! As you read through the Old Testament you already see other nations being welcomed into the family of God. Even the prophets speak about this truth. This is why God can say of his servant in Isaiah, “I will also make you a light for the nations to be my salvation to the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6). This servant is actually a descendant of Abraham. He is none other than Jesus Christ.
The reason why Jesus came was so that he would seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). Humanity is destined for destruction because of their sin, that is their rebellion against God. Everyone has incurred guilt. Their punishment, our punishment is death. Jesus came and did what no one could ever do. He lived in perfect obedience to God’s law and he died as the perfect substitute, in the place of guilty sinners. Jesus took the punishment of death that we deserved and God raised him from the dead! Those who believe in Jesus are saved from the coming wrath. It is because of this Jesus that the promise to Abraham can come to fruition. What was a glimpse in the Old Testament comes to a reality in the New Testament and onward. God’s people are composed of Christians from every tribe, language, people and nation. In heaven, this diverse group of people will be worshipping the one who gave his life for them (Revelation 5:9).
Thank you for reading thus far. I hope that you were able to at least see how God is inclusive in that he welcomes all people from various nations who come to him by faith in his son Jesus. While Christianity is exclusive because of the person and work of Jesus, it is at the same that is inclusive because anyone can come to God by trusting in Jesus. There is no contradiction, just a harmonious relationship. Where do you stand? You might have more questions and that’s okay. Would you be willing to talk about it? Even if you disagree? If you are up for it, let me know. I am open to discussing this with you further. My prayer is that you would know and trust this Jesus!
Pastor Dwayne Sommersell, Associate Minister for Student Ministry at Alliance Bible Church (Mequon, WI) and formerly pastoral resident at Addison Street Community Church, Chicago, wrote this article.