Inclusive Exclusion by JW Kaiser
The surf brand Billabong reminded in me in my teen years that “Only a surfer knows the feeling.” I had a huge poster of that iconic tag line accompanying a surfer in a standup backside barrel. Only a surfer will know all the “feelings” that come with our great passion of riding waves together. Surfing by its nature is somehow exclusive. Localism is the extreme of this exclusive community, but most surfers don’t want more surfers at our favorite breaks. We don’t want kooky folks throwing shakas and trying to rock their best version of so-called “surfer lingo” in the tribe. However, maybe deep down, we still want others to “know the feeling”. Let’s just agree that surfing is an exercise in inclusive exclusion. We don’t want you in the water, but we can’t help to wish you the same stoke we are feeling.
As Christ followers, are we also practicing inclusive exclusion? Some of us only want people that fit our version of a “Christian” claiming to also be Christ followers. Yes, we want others to experience and follow Jesus, but we just want to define “who” gets into the club so to speak. No kooky Christians, right? Keep your messiness away from my Jesus! Truthfully, I’m ashamed to say I am guilty of this sentiment at times.
When Jesus befriends and heals the prostitute, the corrupt tax collector, the demon-possessed, or the “dirty” leaper, we feel safe reading these stories in the Bible. But when those people get near us, we draw back and secretly wish they’d get their act together first. What if a criminal (like the one whom Jesus invites into paradise) or a complete wild man like John (the beloved disciple), or even one who has denied Jesus (like Peter) sits next to us at church and claim Christ?
Billy Graham once said when asked about the perfect church, “If you find a perfect church, join it and it will cease to be perfect.” The Kingdom of God is messy. The Kingdom of God is inclusive. But, the Kingdom of God is also exclusive. The Kingdom of God excludes those who do not embrace the messy, down and out, broken people that Jesus himself embraced and in fact build the church on.