Inclusive Exclusiveness

Doors. Have you ever given any thought to how many doors you walk through in a given day? It's likely you walked through several doors inside your home this morning, only to walk out the door to get into your car or on the bus (through a door). I counted the other day, and, not including cabinets, we have thirteen doors in our home (and our house isn't very big): thirteen doors, three of which are exterior doors.

Have you ever given any thought to what a door actually does? I suppose we're so used to them being there, so used to them opening at the turn of a key and the twist of a knob, but doors are actually quite vital to our current, comfortable way of life. You see, doors keep things out, things we don't want inside with us. Imagine if your home didn't have a door-just an opening; you'd likely wake up in the morning with squirrels in the pantry, mosquitoes swarming the bathroom, and neighborhood dogs digging through your trash in the kitchen. If your home didn't have a door it would be vulnerable to thieves and criminals when you're away. Doors also keep out the weather; they allow us to change the temperature and humidity inside our homes and keep them where we want them. Doors keep out the wind and the rain, the cold and the heat. Inside our homes, doors even keep curious dogs with a chewing habit out of our closets! Doors are vital in preserving our way of life, our comfort, because they keep things outside that don't belong inside.

But doors don't just keep things out. No, in fact they perform another function that is altogether contrary to keeping things out: they let things in. Think about it this way: what would your house be without a door? It would be a box, a box with no way in and no way out. It would essentially be an oversized terrarium! Without doors we wouldn't be able to welcome friends and family into our homes; we would be unable to invite guests into our sanctuaries for worship. Without doors we would be unable to come and go as we please. So I suppose in a way, doors provide us with a certain level of freedom as they allow us to keep out the things that don't belong inside and allow us to bring in and keep the things we want inside. Doors are simultaneously the tools of exclusion and inclusion: their function is somewhat of a contradiction. It's this same sort of contradictory identity that I often struggle with when it comes to the Christian faith: faith in Christ is simultaneously exclusive and inclusive.

I know it sounds harsh at first: Christianity is exclusive. But I think it's a fair word to use when speaking about the Christian faith. We believe that the full revelation of God is found exclusively in Christ. We believe that Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Some of us may try to smudge the lines of exclusiveness by suggesting that while others may not believe that Christ is the only way to God, Christ still saves them-we commonly refer to this as universalism. As an evangelical Christian, universalism doesn't sit well with my convictions, but I understand how one may come to such a theological conclusion (in fact, universalism sits better with me than other alternatives, such as pluralism). There is exclusiveness to Christianity when it comes to understanding Christ as the exclusive way to God, the exclusive source of grace and salvation. It may be uncomfortable for us to think of our faith this way when we think of our friends of other faiths, but then that's when the door swings the other way and we see the inclusiveness of the Christian faith.

You see, just as there is exclusiveness in Christ as the singular way to God, there is inclusiveness in that the gospel is not reserved for any singular ethnicity, race, political party, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, or socio-economic class. The gospel of Christ is inclusive because it is for all people. Faith in Christ should never be used as a reason for excluding oneself from others. The gospel Christ and the apostles preached was not a gospel of elitism. No, if anything, the gospel of Christ demands that we be people who are inclusive, involved in the lives of our neighbors, despite their apparent differences-even if those differences are religious. If Christ is the door (John 10:9), then he is the door that swings wide to include all those who may enter. If Christ were the host of a dinner, he would throw a great banquet with the most inclusive guest list (Luke 14:12-24).

Yes, the Christian faith is exclusive. Yes, the Christian faith is inclusive. May we strive to live in the tension as the people called Christians. May we seek to exemplify with our actions the inclusive exclusiveness of our faith.