Someone at work was talking about a church she had recently visited, which had obviously created a positive impression. She was very enthusiastic about how “inclusive” it was, and what a surprising variety of people there were there.
Why does that word “inclusive” cause alarm bells to go off inside my head?
After all, the Gospel is eminently inclusive. We know the call is open to everyone (2 Peter 3:9), irrespective of race, culture, or economic situation (Colossians 3:11), or even prior background (1 Corinthians 6:10-11).
But what happens when “inclusive” becomes code for “anything goes”? Like it or not, there are certain life styles which Christians are not expected to engage in. In fact that’s the whole point of 1 Corinthians 5: the local church had become were tolerating things they shouldn’t have been–and moreover were proud of their tolerance. And back (or forward) in 6:10-11, when Paul goes through a list of issues and says “that’s what some of you were,” the operative word is were.
I admit, in that particular case, I don’t know exactly what they meant by “inclusive,” and I didn’t ask, so my concerns might be misplaced in that case. Even so, there are plenty of groups calling themselves churches that “include” things that don’t add up in scripture.
Yes, Christians of all shapes and sizes mess up from time to time. But there’s a difference between falling into mud and wallowing in it.
Yes, I know it’s unrealistic to expect non-Christians to stick to a Christian ethic as such (though there may be good social reasons for doing so). And, in a country where we prize both freedom of religion and freedom of association, if you want to start a church group where tolerance and feeling good are primary, there are no laws stopping you.
But is it really going to be a church? Or more to the point–is it really going to be the church? It would be ironic to set up a church group designed for inclusiveness and include everyone but Christ.