The Inclusion Illusion

As I start this discussion I want to state, “I have never met a person that wanted to be tolerated. I have only met those that want to be accepted and loved!” Tolerance is an illusion of inclusion meant to keep us separated and divided while, we say “I accept” a person or group partially. I accept them, but only on things and terms we agree on. Tolerance is an overused word and a limited frame of mind.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ requires more of us, and it frees us from our “own limited comfort zone.” (Gomes 2007 p. 203)

In “The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus,” chapter nine “An Inclusive Gospel,” Gomes, begins with Act 10: 34 KJV, “Of the truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons.” (Gomes 2007 p. 187)  I would like to add two more scriptures to this line of thought from John, John 10: 16, “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” John 11: 51-52, “51 And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; 52 And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. KJV” These scriptures lay out the complete inclusiveness we are to have not just in a church, Christendom, but towards all people that come into our lives. It includes us all, those who ever were, who are today, and who will be.

Gomes spends some time in pointing to how we have separated ourselves into groups, parties, denominations, etc. (tribalism). “Christians all too easily came to repudiate those who repudiated them.” (Gomes 2007 p. 189) We still see this today as some continue to repudiate Jewish people, others, Muslim, others, Christians, peoples of color, social backgrounds, gender identity, roles of men and women, and on and on.  In Chapter 7 Gomes starts with a story or modern-day parable about two missionaries in white shirts appearing at the door of a home. They ask the person who answers the door, “Would you like to spend eternity in heaven?” the person replies, “Will you be there?” Missionaries answer, “Yes. Most definitely!” The person then replies, “Then I don’t want to go.”  Gomes point is “Some people cannot imagine anyone else in their eternity; they imagine heaven to be as exclusive as their own church, filled with people remarkably similar people.” (Gomes 2007 p. 196)

So why do we divide, separate, and tolerate others? There is no place in the Bible that says, “Love the sinner and not the sin.” This is a limiting tolerance view that allows for accepted the objectification of women, “the assumptions of chattel slavery, and even certain views of God.” (Gomes 2007 p. 199) The scandalous Gospel is larger than this.  It is one of love, faith, mercy and hope. Look at the world today, and the problems that truly need our attention, do we need to really concern ourselves with the things of pervasive culture wars?  “ ‘Faith working through love’ is all that matters, the only standard for Christian inclusiveness is faith working through love; it was for this that Christ came and died on the cross, and it will be by this standard alone that we will be judged.” (Gomes 2007 p.203) As I read Gomes and wrote this, I am reminded of a talk, “The Other Prodigal” by Jeffrey R. Holland, an Apostle in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The other prodigal is about the reaction, jealousy and anger, the brother of the prodigal son felt.  His brother was wasteful of his inheritance, but still loved by his father.  The father then gently teaches his (other prodigal) the faithful son, he would always be with him and have all that he has.  He teaches compassion in stating, “Your brother was lost and now is found.” Elder Holland makes this inclusive statement, “That incomparable counsel helps us remember that the word generosity has the same derivation as the word genealogy, both coming from the Latin genus, meaning of the same birth or kind, the same family or gender. We will always find it easier to be generous when we remember that this person being favored is truly one of our own.”

Many of my very close friends fall into the label of LGBT community.  They are strong and faithful Christians that only want to be accepted and loved! They have taught me much as they have supported me through my own trials and adversities that come with life and living.  “If the gospel is truly good news, it has to be good news for everyone, for it is either an inclusive gospel or no gospel at all.”  (Gomes 2007 p. 207)

  1. Given the above quote, “What does inclusive mean to you in context of the Bible?”
  2. What do you think that the gospel requires in today’s quickly changing cultures? What problems does it cause with inclusiveness?

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