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"'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me' (John 14:6 NIV). At first glance, this seems overly exclusive. Jesus is the only way? But on further inspection, we find that Jesus' offer is quite unique from other religions and, in fact, incredibly inclusive." --Louie Giglio
Jesus of Nazareth was from a small town, likely learned his father's trade as a carpinter, and lived in relative obscurity until about age 30. His public ministry lasted about 3 years. That's about 1000 days, and in that short time, he inspired about 120 folks to become committed followers. Within about 6 months of his death and burial and resurrection, his followers' numbers swelled to well over 3000 committed followers. In about two generations the mediterrean cities had certainly heard of the Christ, and within a decade his followers earned a new name, "Christiani", little Christs. In several more generations, much of the western hemisphere had heard of Jesus, and his message of self-sacrificing love was well known, and united people from many nations, languages and religious backgrounds.
Jesus claimed that he himself was THE way to God, that he personally personified truth, and that he himself was life. He lived, died, and rose from the dead to earn the right to claim that. He hadn't died nor had he raised from the dead, but he claimed it even as he lived a welcoming lifestyle and ministered to all sorts of diverse people in his 1000 day ministry.
Women followed Jesus, financially supported him, and were welcome to touch, talk with, attempt to boss him around and interact with him. This was culturally scandalous.
His leading men, also known as the twelve, were diverse: a smattering of every income level you could find: fishermen, a political zealot, a tax collector considered a traitor, a cynic, and a few others. Somehow these men and women in his community managed to build a church that changed the course of history.
Jesus included everyone. Even the Pharisees, Sadducees, and teachers of Jewish law, with whom he traded choice words from time to time (especially at the end of his 1000 day ministry) were welcome in his community.
But there were conditions.
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This is the kicker.
Jesus claims he must be the central and the prime focus of each one of us. Jesus wanted folks to focus on God, heaven, and loving the Creator as first priority. You can't be part of the Jesus way without loving God first. You can visit the Jesus community all you like, but you are not truly included in the full experience of community life until you love God first through Jesus. No other way, no other teacher holds as much sway or has earned as much respect. The Jesus culture is one of love as the first priority.
Secondly, a close second is this: you can't divide, push down or do anything destructive to others. You can only be in the inclusive Jesus way if you love others second to God, just like you love and care for yourself. Anyone can choose this, so anyone can join the community. It's an all welcome, all included community of faith. But there are conditions.
Inclusive doesn't mean unconditional. Inclusive means all can join for the same cost to self. Jesus says it's gonna cost you everything. But you are welcome to try it any other way and come back. There are no flash sales, discounts, or shortcuts. You must give it all up. Yes, Jesus will allow you to pick up most of what you sacrifice and manage it under the banner of Jesus's kingdom, but there is no lack of clarity in what Jesus preached: it's a choice of being totally with him or not. 100% for Jesus (not a church leader, nor for self, nor any other man or woman).
Inclusive does not mean: Come as you are, stay as you are. Inclusive means: Enter as you are and learn to live in community. Jesus resolves many problems by simply saying, "Follow me". He says, "... if someone sins against you go directly to that person and point it out. No gossip, no cancel culture. Simple direct conversation, full of grace and truth, ready to mutually forgive is the standard. Repentance and change are not optional in a Jesus culture. That's a community I want to be in.
Inclusivity isn't conservative. There is a constant need to change and become, both individually and communally, more like Jesus. Dying to self, laying down our lives for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ is not optional. Comfort, convenience, and a whatever or meh attitude won't suffice within the community of Jesus followers. Outside that community, there's a lot of variation in willingness to be like Jesus or not. In the community of faith, Jesus is above all, the highest priority, and the standard to whom we aspire.
Inclusivity is not liberal. It is not constant change and acceptance of ALL ideas. Inclusivity will expect growth, boundaries, and focus on someone or something higher than self. So to be maximally inclusive, we must focus on someone or something higher than all. This is what is so compelling. Jesus Christ is unique in his claim that he is the only one who is God in the flesh, yet totally human. He did not sin, welcomed all, and confronted the bigotry, racism, and heartless exclusivity in the hearts of every person who heard his words, not just religious leaders. He knew how conniving, selfish, and manipulative people could be, yet he still loved, touched, and healed them gladly. He answered entrapping questions with incisive craftiness. He didn't liberally sign up all who claimed to want to follow him. He checked their motives and asked folks to confront their deepest heart issues before committing. No one came into the community without counting the cost. The costliness of the decision to follow him did not make Jesus exclusive.
Jesus was inclusive of all who were willing to appreciate the preciousness of what they were being included in.
Living well is the focus of this blog and the podcast. No one lived better than Jesus Christ. No one lived up to what Jesus did, let alone claimed to personify the truth he preached. No one redefined categories with his life AND doctrine like Jesus did. No one claimed what he did and no one predicted and fulfilled their own death and resurrection. So he is unique, but not exclusive. He is inclusive. The most inclusive guy you'll ever meet.
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