Beyond Inclusion

There is a big difference between being beyond inclusion and unconditional or universal inclusion!  In many discussions and/0r debates about hospitality, inclusion and exclusion, people miss this difference.

Being beyond inclusion

The message of Jesus was that NOBODY was beyond inclusion.  The dominant world  view in his day was that certain people could never be included through no fault of their own.  There was a dividing wall that forever kept some people out.  What Jesus did, in knocking down the dividing wall, was make it possible for “those people” to actually come in.

But their “coming in” was not without condition.

In order to enter in, they had to submit their lives to the rule and reign of Jesus – i.e. they had to enter in to the kingdom of God.  That does not imply that they have to live under Jesus’ reign and rule perfectly, but there was (and is) an expectation of surrender to the way of Jesus, by the power of the Spirit.  There was also an expectation of continued surrender to the way of Jesus, through which transformation by the Spirit is accomplished.

Unconditional Inclusion

What many are calling for today is not breaking down the dividing walls.  They are calling for unconditional inclusion.  This means that people are included period.  There is no expectation of surrender to the way of Jesus.  There is no expectation of transformation into the image of Jesus by the Spirit.  Unconditional inclusion is all the grace, none of the following.  It’s an appealing idea – I’m ok, you’re ok, we’re all loved by Jesus equally, and so on – but it eventually collapses on itself.

The only way for unconditional inclusion to work is for there to be no distinctions at all.  Without any distinctions at all, there is no difference between the church and the world.  Ultimately, there is no distinction between good and evil, God and the devil.


Exclusion is the opposite of inclusion.  Both camps agree that exclusion is not the way of Jesus.  However, unconditional inclusion is not the solution that Jesus holds forth.  The solution Jesus holds out is the view that nobody is ever beyond inclusion.

This is the only space possible where we can both hold forth the teaching of Jesus as a rule of faith for the church while at the same time welcoming any and all people who would come, imperfect as they are.

In my understanding, it is impossible to enter into the kingdom of God without complete surrender.   That doesn’t mean complete perfection.  It does mean being completely willing to allow the Spirit to transform you which will also look more and more like Jesus over time.

What is your take?


One thought on “Beyond Inclusion

  1. I think that what ends up happening with even the folks in the “unconditional inclusion” camp is a reliance on “Well, God’s grace through Jesus will win in the end, even if the person doesn’t make a conscious ‘follow’ decision while in ‘this life'”. I find that unfaithful to the Biblical witness. Faith, according to the biblical witness, involves a repentance which is more than just “I’m sorry” but a radical turnaround to re-aim the focus of life towards Jesus and away from anything else. Yes, Jesus has knocked down the dividing walls… everyone is welcome, no exceptions. But there are still walls that we live by, even if God already knocked them down. Just watch a sheep in a pasture. If there is an electric fence around the pasture, they soon learn not go cross the line. But one day, the power goes out and the fence is no longer electrified… the sheep stay in the pasture. The fence is gone, for all purposes, but the sheep still live like it’s there.

    So, Jesus may have knocked down the walls, turned off the fence… but we cannot enter the Kingdom so long as we act as if there is a fence still there, a fence, sometimes of “I’m good enough” or even “I’m not good enough”.

    Thanks, Michael… I fear, sometimes, that in our Mennonite culture with our emphasis on God’s love, we forget that condition of faith… “by grace are we saved, through FAITH”. We must have the faith in order to engage the grace.

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