Recently, someone posted the question “Is our gospel big enough to welcome everybody at our church?” At first, my reaction was, “Well, it should be.” Then I caught myself and started asking, “Should it be?”

The Christian church has wrestled with the tension the Gospel brings. In many ways, it seems paradoxical. On the one hand, Jesus enlarged the gospel for his audience to segments of the population who never conceived they could actually be part of God’s kingdom. Jesus is often accused of fellowshipping with “those people” (i.e. people who the religious community never thought had a chance of being saved). This was indeed GOOD NEWS! At the same time, Jesus reminds his disciples that he came to divide families, that if you weren’t willing to follow him unconditionally, you could not be part of the kingdom of God. The Bible tells us that while many did initially follow him, a lot of them ended up leaving because it was too challenging.

In today’s society, there still exists this tension. On the one hand, we are told to be counter-cultural; Westboro Baptist Church (an Independent Baptist church) tries to be known for this. There are those on the other end who try to be as culturally relevant and engaging as possible, all embracing and unconditionally accepting. To some extent, that seems true. Again, Jesus invited prostitutes and other outcasts into God’s kingdom. Yet Jesus is clear that many (i.e. majority of the people) will not be part of his kingdom i.e. there will be a LOT of people who will walk away from him. Frankly, it’s not our job to decide “who’s in, who’s out”. But Jesus presents a picture where the church, while open to everyone, is a place where not everyone will want to be. Grant it, there are times when that rejection comes because of us (i.e. we’re being idiots and bad representatives of Jesus). However, other times, the rejection is because of Jesus himself (assuming we are representing him properly). (We can’t assume that everyone we do falls in to the latter category; self-reflection and Spirit-guidance is needed for us to see when we’re in the former.) Some issues where this is quite present is the interaction with LGBTQ issues and (to a smaller extent) cultural holidays like Halloween.

Frankly, I’m still wrestling with this. I want to honour my God and follow Jesus’ way of engaging with the community around me. I must admit that I don’t ways know what’s the best way to do that. Where do you see yourself in that continuum / tension?