In our culture, we have learned to operate under a paradigm of boundaries. Some people are IN and some people are OUT. We are quick to create rules and regulations about who belongs in Christian fellowship and who does not, about who is saved and who is not. Of course these are unwritten, unspoken rules, but they exist nonetheless. Everyone who is part of the ‘in-group’ knows well who does not belong within the community, who is not invited to the table of communion. Most often, our words will ring strong with inclusive language, yet all can sense the unsaid ‘boundaries of belonging.’
I am reminded of my time as a youth pastor. We used a myriad of inclusive language, strongly emphasizing that everyone belonged and all should feel welcomed in our group, but everyone could sense this was not true. We had one student who was a self-described ‘Goth,’ and it was clear early on in my ministry that this student did not feel welcomed in our ‘normal,’ straight-laced meetings. As much as my words spoke of inclusiveness, our attitudes of exclusivity were clearly seen in this student’s quick departure from our community. He was not welcomed to the table.
We create these divisions out of a spirit of necessity. When you operate within a ‘some are in, some are out’ system, in order to be ‘in,’ some must be ‘out.’ In order to prove our own belonging within the community of faith and the realm of salvation, we must operate within a system where some people are not invited into the life of faith. This way of thinking has nothing to do with the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is a place where everyone is welcome at the banquet table, where none are excluded from the table of fellowship. Throughout the gospels Jesus is constantly telling stories where the people who would never be invited into fellowship are the very people who are the honored guests. Jesus continually challenges the assumed ‘boundaries of belonging’ within his own culture, asking his followers to be boundary-less people, welcoming all to the table of communion. I wonder what it would look like for individual Christians and communities of faith to be places where everyone is welcomed, where no one is excluded. Would it be possible to address the unwritten, unspoken rules of our communities in an effort to allow everyone access to the Kingdom? I pray we will have this boldness.
HT: Experience MHGS