Wednesday, 29 October 2014

The Gospel; Exclusive, Inclusive or Both

I've been thinking about a couple of verses that, at first glance, may see, to present a bit of a paradox:
“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.(Luke 11:23)

 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.” (Luke 9:50)

Both these verses were given in passages connected with the driving out of demons. In the first, by Jesus, in the second one, by another man, an outsider.
As I started putting things down on paper I realized they touch on the same subjects as Pastor Brent Cantelon’s talk at our recent Alpha staff retreat – that the Gospel is , at once, exclusive, inclusive and urgent.
Jesus said that whoever is not with him is against him. In this sense the Gospel is exclusive. He said that he is the only way to the Father; that no one comes to the Father except through him (John 14:6). Exactly what that means is a way bigger discussion. Just how much does one need to know to come to a relationship with God through Jesus Christ? Bottom line is that the only thing that made such a relationship possible is the atoning, sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. The world does not like this kind of exclusivity, but that doesn’t make it untrue.

In the second context, the disciples saw someone doing something in Jesus’ name and objected because he was not one of them – their circle, their denomination, their ministry. But Jesus corrected them, saying that whoever is not against them (and by extension, us) is for us.

In my travels with Alpha, I am finding that, as the world and its culture seems to be departing further and further from our Christian faith, there is a growing realization of the unity of the true Body of Christ. I am seeing a growing cooperation between various churches and denominations. The man in the second verse was ministering in Jesus’ name, even though he wasn’t one of their particular circle. So in that sense we are cautioned not to be exclusive. All who truly profess Christ as God the Son, Saviour and Lord are our allies.

Within Alpha, I love the servant attitude of our team. Any one of us is willing at any time to help any other of us. None of  our team is jealous of territory or protecting our particular turf. Nor is Alpha itself. Even Nicky Gumbel, who developed Alpha to its current level of excellence, says that if he were to find something more effective in presenting the Gospel than alpha, he would drop Alpha immediately.
And finally, because our message is both exclusive and inclusive, there is a urgency to our communicating this truth. There is no other way to a relationship with God than through Jesus Christ. It is a relationship that everyone needs, and one that everyone has available to them.
There is no neutrality. Anyone not for him is against him. But in our communicating this message to the world, anyone not against us is for us.

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