BCSA President and Christies Beach Baptist Pastor, Daniel Gardiner, shares a shred of wisdom to chew over as you read the latest edition of Together in Mission!
Personally, being brought up in a Christian family, I am aware that I was judgemental to anyone, particularly other Christians, who didn’t live up to what I considered was God’s standard.
However, the older I get and the more I get to know Jesus, I realise that he not just accepted everyone, but went out of his way to include those who others rejected.
He was so involved in the lives of those who had been rejected by their faith community that he was counted amongst them.
He stood up for them to the religious leaders, even pointing out to those leaders how they should model aspects of their lives on the ‘sinners’ and that they were in danger of missing out on the very heavenly party that the ‘sinners’ were included in.
The very act of eating with tax collectors, ‘immoral’ women and other ‘sinners’ was an incredibly inclusive act in a society with extreme purity laws and exclusive rules on who enters the temple.
Theologically I would consider myself as fairly conservative, and as such I find myself (and my teachings) exceedingly challenged by the way Jesus equally included those who I might consider not meeting the standards he expects.
How do I walk the line between what I consider holiness in the church I lead and the modelling of full inclusion that I see Jesus holding to? It’s a journey I am on. I do not know if I will ever find peace in my responses and decision-making in this area.
But there is one thing that I have come to a decision about: posture.
I will not alienate or exclude the people that I see Jesus welcoming. How does it help to call out their behaviour or call them sinners? I happen to be a sinner too, in need of God’s grace and mercy on a daily basis.
I don’t need someone constantly pointing out my issues, I need to know I am loved, included, and accepted. The more I know that and that I am safe, the more I can let go of the chains that bind me.
One of the things I love most about being Baptist here in SA is the posture we take in making public statements.
It is an important value that I believe is helped in the understanding of being a Priesthood of all believers. We understand that each person is unique and on a faith journey different to others. We can allow for inclusion rather than taking a ‘you are in and you are out’ approach.
We try to put forward our collective thoughts but allow for different opinions. We choose not to be combative and seek a collaborative stance even when we may disagree with some viewpoints.
My hope is that as we navigate an ever-polarised world, we remain aware of the grace and mercy we all need. Let’s seek the path of acceptance and inclusion, possibly even to the point of being accused of being amongst the very people that others would seek to reject.