Monday, 20 June 2016

A non-exclusive offer - Sunday 19th June 2016

Religions easily become exclusive, and like most exclusive offers the cost of exclusivity can be high. If you want the spiritual benefits, you have to join up and fit in. You are expected to keep the rules, take part in the rituals, and generally become like the other adherents.
The earliest Christians believed that the teaching of Jesus was a exclusive offer, only available to Jews. Jesus’ message had slashed the traditional cost of being part of God’s chosen people (in terms of laws and rituals), but his followers still maintained a ring of exclusivity. This bargain offer of God’s freely given love was only available to Jews.
But then God intervened. Acts 10 tells how God opened Peter’s mind to grasp that all human beings are God’s people, not just Jewish ones. Afterwards, Peter declared, 'I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.’
Over the 20 centuries since, Christianity has gradually woven a web of exclusivity around itself which is similar in many ways to that of 1st century Judaism. Those who seek the spiritual and eternal benefits of the Gospel are expected to join up and fit in. There are moral rules to keep, and rituals to follow. People are expected to ‘become Christians’ in order for their salvation to be secured. Christianity has become exclusive.
However, Jesus' message was inclusive, not exclusive. He sought to remove the traditional barriers that kept people away from experiencing God’s love. Anyone who prayed to God, and supported those in need was counted in - even a centurion in the Roman army.
Our task as Jesus’ disciples is not to make people into Christians. It is to urge all people to love God, and love their neighbours - whatever their cultural background. That is all God requires.

No comments:

Post a Comment