I have to admit I’m a fan of Brian McLaren.
I’ve read most of his books and something about their overarching themes resonates with the way I’m wired. I appreciated the dialogue created in the New Kind of Christian trilogy because it addressed inherited beliefs I had always questioned. I understood The Secret Message of Jesus as being the coming of the kingdom of God and became enthused about its presence here and now in our world. I agreed that Everything Must Change and was excited about the possibilities such a treatise opened up to me. I related to the ten questions (and numerous answers) found in A New Kind of Christianity and thought how Christianity would be a much better alternate reality if it would just wake up and see the simplicity of Brian’s prophetic message.
Along with a raft of other books, articles, and podcasts, I found my understanding of Scripture enlarged and my life as a follower of God in the way of Jesus greatly revitalised.
The problem I have is not everyone gets it! This frustrates me . . . and sometimes infuriates me.
When I hear the fundamentalist language of 50’s Christianity, I cringe. When I read those who espouse an escapist ‘rapture’ theology’ and a violent and fiery end of the world as we know it, I get all tied up in knots. When I see the rampant discrimination in churches against women, gays, and those whose theology is not quite ‘up to scratch,’ my blood pressure rises. When I experience the formula-driven worship of the Hillsong generation, I long for the church to rise above that and seek reality, honesty and vulnerability in its words and worship.
But in the end, I think I’ve fallen into ‘A new kind of Exclusivism’ in my thinking and in my relationships.
I found myself sitting in church the other day with these kinds of thoughts rushing through my head and I realised I’m heading back to where I started and was becoming what I was running from. In drawing up new borders and building new walls, I was simply re-framing my exclusivism in another context. In thinking myself to be somewhat better, more aware, having greater understanding than others, I was in fact creating another ‘us’ and another ‘them.’
Jesus prayed for his followers that they would be one. Looking at their backgrounds, I can easily see how they could fall into the same categories as the wide spectrum of people who inhabit our church structures today: pharisees, zealots, fishermen, tax gatherers, rich and poor, higher and lower status, God-focused and self-focused. Yet, in the power and through the working of the Holy Spirit, they showed what unity can bring about–simply because it wasn’t unity built around one man’s interpretation of the truth, but oneness that was centered in the Truth personified: Jesus. Their oneness turned the world system of their day upside-down and showed what is possible when we humbly submit to one another and to Christ.
So I repent of my new exclusivism amongst all my other sins of pride, jealousy, malice, and falseness (to name but a few), and ask God to help me to live in the way of Jesus every day. It’s not easy, but it is possible. God has already proven that.