The “Whatever” Problem With “Jesus Never Excluded Anyone”

It came up again this weekend: a church leader saying, “We must not side with those in the church who would exclude a certain group of people. Jesus never excluded anyone.”

This person didn’t name the issue. Of course we all knew what he was talking about, but he chose not to say it anyway.

And there’s a bigger problem with this statement of his than either the group or the issue, so I’m not going to name it either. I know you’ll know what I’m referring to. What I write here could apply equally as well to other issues, though, in other times and places. This post isn’t about that specific issue; it’s about Christians’ dangerous tendency to bend their view of Scripture to accommodate current cultural demands, whatever those demands may be.

I have three points. First, that leader’s statement was both careless and almost entirely false. Second, it usurps God’s place, putting humans in charge of our relationships with him. Third, it tends to set aside the most central fact of Christianity — redemption through the cross — as if it were hardly relevant.

1. “Jesus Never Excluded Anyone” Is a Careless and Generally False Statement

The Church should indeed welcome everyone. There’s no denying that.

The Church has never fully practiced that welcome. There’s no denying that, either.

But hold on a moment: what do we mean by “welcome”? Can we use a little care in defining our terms, please?

If we mean the Church should invite everyone into a loving, truth-filled, warmly-offered opportunity to seek God together with us, then yes, we should welcome everyone.

Often, however, this statement means everyone may be welcomed into full communion and fellowship as members of the people of God, including positions of church leadership. For those who take the Bible seriously — who look to the evidence to determine whether Jesus excluded anyone or not — this is obviously false.

Jesus pointedly excluded the scribes and Pharisees (see all of Matthew 23). He obviously excluded certain ideas and beliefs, including the belief that what follows below is optional.

The rest of Scripture what I’m saying, for example 1 Cor. 6:9-10. Incidentally, the leader who tried to say Jesus never excluded anyone made that point in the course of a talk based on the first chapter of that same book of the Bible. Surely he knows that God’s word includes more than the red letters!

Also in 1 Corinthians, Paul very pointedly excluded a man who claimed to be a brother in Christ but was practicing immorality (1 Cor. 5:1-5). The reason Paul did that, the passage says, is so “his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.” Exclusion from fellowship is a signal, a warning sent to unrepentant sinners, telling them it’s wrong to think they’re at one with the people of Christ while they persist in open disobedience to God.

Conversely, then, to allow people into full fellowship (including leadership) while they persist in open disobedience is to send them a false signal that everything’s okay. It’s like saying,  “Hey, whatever, we don’t care. It doesn’t matter.” It paves the way to their spirit’s destruction. It’s not loving.

2. It Usurps God’s Place as God in Our Relationships With Him

The error that “Jesus never excluded anyone” may come from confused thinking the truth that he invited everyone. He made it very clear that all are welcome in his kingdom. It’s fine and good to affirm that. The error associated with it comes from forgetting that he extends his invitation on his terms. And it comes as well from forgetting that we are welcome on his terms. See for example Matt. 8:18-22 and Mark 10:17-22.

This is no small error. God does have the right, doesn’t he, to determine how we relate to him? He is Creator, he is King, and he is holy. Nothing could be clearer in Scripture. It’s equally plain to see that he has standards for us, and that one’s relationship with him depends on how one responds to those standards.

To say “everyone is welcome” without conditions is to ignore God’s own word on the matter.

3. It Tends to Makes the Cross of Christ Irrelevant

The leader I’m referring to could have said: “We shouldn’t exclude this group because their uniquely characteristic actions aren’t wrong.” That would be one kind of error, in my considered opinion. He didn’t say that; instead he made a different kind of mistake. Besides the two problems I’ve already mentioned, this message tends to invalidate the purpose of the cross.

That’s a huge error in my book; it strikes at the very core of our faith. But I need to explain how I think this makes the cross irrelevant.

A. If it’s clear (and it is) that our relationship with God depends on how we respond to his standards, then what response does he require? It isn’t perfection, that’s for sure. No one but Jesus even comes within sight of that mark. What he wants us to do instead is acknowledge our imperfections — our sin, that is — and trust in Christ to forgive us through his redemption on the cross.

B. What he doesn’t want us to do is to tell people, “Hey, it doesn’t matter what you do, since Jesus includes everyone.” We know that because the cross of Christ proves that it matters what we do: Christ died to redeem us, and forgive us of what we’ve done wrong.

C. The test this leader gave for including this group had nothing to do with rightness or wrongness. It was just this: “Jesus doesn’t exclude anyone.” Period.

D. Now, if we should include all persons just for that reason, then our decision to do so doesn’t depend on concluding that they’re right, and it doesn’t depend on concluding that they’re wrong. It simply sets aside rightness or wrongness.

E. But to set aside rightness or wrongness on any contentious issue, where that’s at least an open question, is to say, “Hey, whatever; rightness or wrongness don’t matter on this point, so what you do doesn’t matter, since Jesus includes everyone.”

F. And that’s wrong; it makes the cross irrelevant (see B).

Now what I said above is that this tends to make the cross irrelevant. I left some room in there for the possibility that this leader might say, “Hold on a minute! I’m not ignoring the cross! I just didn’t have time to tell you the whole story. I’ve done the work, and I’m convinced these actions are perfectly in tune with God’s will.” In that case he could still be honoring the cross; he’d be making a different mistake instead. But he didn’t state it that way.

These are really dangerous errors for church leaders to make, regardless of the specific issue of the day

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5 thoughts on “The “Whatever” Problem With “Jesus Never Excluded Anyone”

  1. It amazes me that critical thinking skills have so deteriorated that this post would be necessary. Jesus didn’t exclude anyone per se; what he did was condemn sin and call it out.

  2. The irony: If Jesus didn’t exclude anyone, then who is this unnamed leader’s message directed to? He must think it’s wrong to exclude a group, but if Jesus doesn’t exclude anyone then everyone is included, including the excluders! So what’s the point? He really didn’t think his point through to its logical conclusion.

  3. Many christians today say a lot of awfully wrong things because they don’t know the scriptures-the word of God. Again , they err because they don’t know the power of God- the Holy Spirit.

    Learning the scriptures is imperative for our survival in this contemporary deceitful world. The devil is doing everything to make us neglect the scriptures.

    God is friend to the repentant sinner but he hates sin. A consequence of his holiness. 1 pet 1:14-16

    Love and prayer should guide our judge

    Flee (runaway) from sexual immorality (all forms) every other sin a persom commits is outside the body, but the sexual immoral person sins against his own body.

    The origin of the word sodomy must be considered. It was taken from sodom and gomorrah in the bible. Surely we all must be aware of what God did to those people.

  4. “The origin of the word sodomy must be considered. It was taken from sodom and gomorrah in the bible. Surely we all must be aware of what God did to those people.”

    And we should remember why God destroyed Sodom:

    Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. (Ez. 16:49)

  5. There are 6 passages in the Bible that refer clearly to homosexuality. Five of them clearly teach that it’s wrong. This is the sixth. I don’t use it for that teaching because, as David correctly pointed out, the teaching is ambiguous at best. Jude 7 ties the sin there to “sexual immorality.” I tend to think that’s in reference to the homosexuality in Sodom, but it’s not clear enough there to rebut alternate opinions, in my view.

    There are enough other passages on the topic; we don’t need to rely on this one.

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