“Brethren, if someone is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual should restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so you also won’t be tempted.”
The expression ‘radical inclusion’ is often used these days in some Christian circles to describe the character of God’s grace.
If radical inclusion describes grace, perhaps it would be useful to clarify just what grace actually is, and what it means to be a community of grace. For that is what the Church is, a community of grace. Grace certainly describes God’s undeserved, unconditional love for sinners. St. Paul tell us that we are saved by this grace, apart from any contribution on our part. This is radical stuff.
We may also ask, what kind of life does this radical grace make possible? To put a fine point on it, grace makes it possible for us to take responsibility for our past, without condemnation, even as we assume new responsibilities as servants of God in the love and freedom grace makes possible. We are able to confess our sins and walk in a new life because of grace.
This means that the Church, the community of grace, is not a judgmental community. But we are an admonishing community. This distinction is critical.
The problem with some uses of radical inclusion to describe grace is that grace is actually being defined as ‘indulgence’, anything goes. If I indulge you, whether I really care about you is questionable. Good parents don’t indulge their children’s every whim unless they want to produce selfish, willful brats. Indulgence is not saying ‘I love you’. It is saying, ‘Go ahead, do what you want. I don’t care.’
The Church is a community of grace, a community of forgiveness and love. And because love is our aim, our way with one another is to care. And when you care, you admonish. And to admonish is to express warning or disapproval in a gentle, friendly and concerned manner. Admonition is not unloving criticism. Without admonition a very important aspect of love within the Christian community is not expressed, and at great cost. Love is not lazy, nor does it overlook the harm we may cause one another. Christians are neither unloving critics nor uncritical lovers.
There are any number of issues in church life that are defended in the name of radical inclusion. But it is fair to ask, in fact in the name of Christian love it must be asked, if radical inclusion really means nothing more than indulgent acquiescence to willfulness insisting on it’s own way. If this what is actually meant, it surely cannot be grace. Nor can it rightly be called love. In fact, it can hardly be called Christian.
“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”