I have been thinking lately about the words of Jesus and how he interacted with those he came across. Except for some of those in the religious establishment I couldn’t find any instance where he chose to automatically exclude from his saving grace or the wisdom of his teachings. He treated men and women pretty much the same; he welcomed all to his ministry. The poor and marginalized seemed to be special targets for him to reach out. He just wasn’t one to exclude anyone, even tax collectors and Roman soldiers. The sick and the lame were often the center of his attention.
Fast forward to today and there seems to be a common thread in almost all the religious establishments who call themselves Christian. They in one form or another seem to be more inclined to exclude people from membership in their organizations as they are to include them. If you can manage to jump through all the many hoops that they require and keep your mouth shut in regards to questions you might have of their doctrine and practices then you are welcome as a member. Just don’t ever step over the line.
This is especially true for those who have chosen to be ministers in their organizations. Tow the line or else be called a heretic. Almost all of these groups seem to be convinced that if they allow any level of dissent they are opening themselves up to falling down a slippery slope into Satan’s domain. They, for the most part, view the world as completely dominated by the evil one and therefore everything and everyone outside their personal groups are to be viewed with skepticism at the least and evil at the worst.
I know from personal experience of perhaps the most moving Christian minister I have ever encountered who was personally chastised for joining those outside his denomination in a prayer situation. He was stripped of his preaching duties for a year; his sermons were by far his most dominant God-given ability.
I know from personal experiences that when I questioned the claim that the Bible was 100% literally true and without error a process was started where I was to lose my membership of almost ten years and thousands of hours of volunteer work for the group. When I professed that I believed that the earth is more than 7,000 years old the process was begun to exclude me. I am no longer part of that organization.
Jesus was all about inclusion. He went out of his way to bring in all those around him. Sadly today’s churches, almost all 39,000 versions of them, are constantly looking for ways to exclude people. I am greatly saddened by this ever-present practice and I’m sure Jesus is devastated by it. What happened to his church of the first two hundred years? I will have some thoughts about that in a future post here.