How Did I Miss That?
Part 18: Exclusion Leads to Implosion
And as he sat at dinner in Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples – for there were many who followed him. Mark 2:15
I am not fluent in astrophysics, so forgive my pseudo-scientific musings, but there seems to be agreement that our universe is expanding at an ever-increasing rate. There are elements within our universe, however, that are contracting. Black holes are former stars that have died and imploded into themselves, retaining all their mass, but in an infinitely small space. Anything near a black hole is sucked into that hole and cannot escape, not even light.
Some churches remind me of a black hole. They worship what seems to me a very small God, and they exclude large swaths of humanity from those they say are redeemed. They believe themselves to be God’s “chosen ones,” and everyone else will burn in Hell. They identity certain words that must be said, rituals that must be practiced, rules that must be followed, and they are certain in their knowledge that they are right and everyone else is wrong. These churches, not unlike a black hole, suck everything into themselves so that nothing good can escape, not even love or light. I believe this type of exclusion would cause Jesus to roll over in his tomb (if he were still there).
Jesus was inclusive and rejected no one. In fact, much of the criticism he received had to do with the choices he made in followers. He hung out with sinners and those usually excluded from recognized social circles – prostitutes, tax collectors, fishermen, adulterers, lepers, and foreigners. In fact, the only group he consistently criticized was the religious elite – those who sought to exclude others from their pious circles. This was the group that made the rules that determined whether a person was deemed worthy of God’s blessing. Jesus, while firmly within that circle of worthiness, preferred to hang out on the fringes where he could invite those standing outside in – ever expanding the reach of inclusion into God’s family.
Spirituality, in general, and Christianity, specifically, calls for an ever-increasing circle of invitation and inclusion. Inclusion is what love requires, even when those we include create discomfort, and even when we may not approve of the lifestyles, beliefs, or practices we allow in. Whenever we question if someone is worthy of inclusion into our family circle we should ask, “Who would Jesus exclude?” The answer is that Jesus did not exclude anyone. We also need to remember the “circle” does not belong to us, anyway. The circle belongs to God. Whenever our reading of scripture leads us to exclude, we should read more carefully Jesus’ examples of inclusion. Otherwise, we risk creating a spiritual black hole where the mass of our being collapses into itself. No love will enter and no light will escape. The universe God created is expanding its reach. Are we expanding with it?
Exclusion leads to implosion. How did I miss that?
Ever yours, Greg.