MOMENTS WITH THE MINISTER: Inclusion and the Kingdom of Heaven
The dictionary defines the word “inclusion” as the practice or policy of providing equal access or opportunities to people who might otherwise be excluded. Today the church is bombarded with messages from the outside and the inside that we are unloving because at times we are exclusive, and not inclusive enough. Some would say that you cannot separate loving someone from the definition of “inclusion,” but in looking at the definition above, I don’t really believe love is what is being asked for, nor what will ultimately solve the problem. It was the great Tina Turner who sang, “What’s love got to do with it”? And when it comes to the issue of inclusion in the church for anyone and everyone, man’s love is not going to solve the problem of the exclusiveness of the Kingdom of Heaven that Jesus describes for us in the New Testament. Let me explain what I mean.
In John 3:16 we are told that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but will have everlasting life. God’s love includes everyone right? Well if you mean that God loves everyone, well yes. But if you mean that everyone’s going to believe, and everyone’s going to heaven to have everlasting life, then the answer is no. Love alone doesn’t solve the problem of the exclusivity of the Kingdom of Heaven. So who gets included and who gets excluded?
Nicodemus was the one who first heard the words of John 3:16, but before he heard those words he heard these from John 3:6-7 - “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born again”. And so from John 3:3 we see that to even “see the kingdom of God” we must be born again, and by verse 5 we see that to even “enter into the Kingdom of God” we must be born of the Spirit. The exclusivity of the Kingdom of God belongs to those who have been “born again.”
Now we could have a long discussion about what that means, but my purpose here today is to show how often Jesus used exclusive language when speaking on the Kingdom of Heaven. What about Matthew 7:13-14 where Jesus tells us that “broad is the path that leads to destruction, and many find it, but narrow is the way that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Doesn’t that sound pretty exclusive? Or what about in the same chapter of Matthew 7:21 Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of Heaven”. That also sounds pretty exclusive. But does everyone have equal access to Christ? That’s a harder question to answer. Not everyone in the world has a Bible in their language. Not everyone has a missionary sent to them. Not every people group has a church ministering to them the gospel of Christ among them. One of the greatest needs in the Kingdom of God is for us to pray for laborers to be sent into the harvest fields so that others might hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, and be born again.
But does everyone have the witness of creation as Paul seems to say to us in Romans 1? Yes they do. Is everyone loved by God? Yes they are. Sometimes God even uses dreams and visions, and saves people in distant lands where there are no missionaries, but we know God normally uses His people to spread His message of salvation.
I want to end this article with one more parable, which describes for us the Kingdom of Heaven. There are so many to choose from, but when it comes to this issue of inclusion or exclusion, I think this one will do better to explain the heart of God. Jesus told a parable called the Sower and the Seed in which he described a sower sowing the word of God. In the story there were four probable outcomes for the future of the seed. Some were stolen by Satan, meaning that before the Kingdom of Heaven and the word of God could take a root in a person’s life, the Devil came and stole it from their heart so that they easily forgot it. Secondly, some seed fell on rocky soil, but had little root - so that when troubles or persecution came, their faith was found to be shallow, not rooted, and their faith withered away quickly. Third, some seed fell into the ground among weeds and thorns. Mark tells us that Jesus said these were the cares and worries of life, and the deceitfulness of riches. These things choked the plant causing it to become unfruitful. But lastly, there was the word that bore fruit in the life of the person to whom it had been planted. There is one implication for Jesus using the idea of “fruit-bearing” to talk about the mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven: those who have been born of the Spirit bear fruit in their life. What does this fruit look like? Galatians 5:22-23 tells us that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Ask yourself two questions: Have I been born again by the Spirit of God, and then does my life look like those things I see in Galatians? For more answers to these questions search the New Testament for every time Jesus spoke on the Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God. God doesn’t want anyone to perish, but for all to come to eternal life.
Brian Taylor began his ministry as a young man on the foreign mission field of Togo, West Africa serving with the International Mission Board of the SBC. He spent almost a decade serving as a music and youth minister in the Panhandle of Texas. He loves preaching and pastoring on the southside of Sherman. He has been married to his wife Sarah for 17 years, and they have five children. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.