It’s Pride week and I’m a bit jealous.
Every summer tens of thousands of Christians gather to celebrate the good news of God’s love and once every ten years we get a ten minute view of that on Songs of Praise – which is avoided by anyone who either isn’t interested in Faith or those for whom faith is at the core and soul of their lives!
No mention on the news of tens of thousands of peaceful Christians getting serious about faith, every week of the summer holidays, no mention of the celebration of God’s goodness.
But Pride seems to be the current “Poster Child” – everyone is jumping on the rainbow theme – Skittles, Local Councils, and even the National Trust, hardly the hotbed of radical activism, are insisting on rainbow badges to show their support.
Today I read an article that sought to equate the Pride movement with the Christian message. The argument was twofold.
Firstly The Christian faith was one of radical inclusion, and Pride too shares that theme.
Secondly that Pride was about a journey of self discovery and so is Christianity “Jesus found himself and became the Christ” says the author.
So the first point – Radical Inclusion.
Yes! Yes, yes, yes, yes yes!
The heart and soul of the Christian faith is that God longs for us to be in relationship with Him. Everyone is welcome. Everyone is special.
Look at Jesus.
His core team are uneducated, Northern, working class men and a huge number of women who provide for Him during his ministry.
His attitude towards women is ground breaking.
He treats children with special regard.
The woman at Jacob’s well, an outcast even in a tribe of outcasts, an outcast squared, is the one who Jesus invites to receive the Living Water.
Lepers, even more untouchable than Samaritans or women, found someone who would touch.
Beggars found that he would give them his time and attention.
The “unclean” woman with menstrual bleeding found a Jesus who would make a Synagogue Ruler wait whilst his Daughter died, in order to include her within his story.
The little man Zacchaeus, the hated tax collector, seen as a Roman collaborator (hated almost as much in his day as paedophiles are in ours), is radically included in the story of Jesus.
The widow’s two copper coins are the most precious gift the temple receives. The poorest are recognised as the most generous.
Oh yes, Radical Inclusion is at the heart of the Christian faith. The Good News is that God desires to include EVERYONE in his kingdom, that everyone would return to the knowledge that they are a beloved and precious child of God.
And that is something with which Pride shames the Church.
For too long the Church has been seen as exclusive, judgemental, isolationist. The pride movement, with its message of radical inclusion, of celebrating every individual as precious and uniquely valuable as a member of society, shames a church which has turned away the leper, the outcast, the lame, the poor, the child or the sinner.
Many of my clergy colleagues celebrate with Pride because their message of radical inclusion feels more Christ-like than the Church of the Latter Day Pharisees with its unwritten rules that mean that “we” are in and “They” are out!
We should be ashamed and Pride shames us.
The Gospel of Jesus, the good news of God’s love is not JUST about radical inclusion.
To stop there is like opening a bar of chocolate and never eating it,
like getting into the car but never starting the engine,
like chewing without swallowing,
like packing for a holiday but never going,
like seeing the most beautiful pearl in the world, but never buying it
like meeting God himself, walking amongst us, and turning away back to a life of darkness.
Many people were radically included by Jesus, but many were not prepared to undergo the radical transformation that Jesus offered them. To be transformed from who they are, and who they think they should be, and what they think they want to do, and to follow this Jesus wherever he leads, especially when that leads away from destructive ways of thinking and living and being.
The thieving, self interested tax collector Zacchaeus is led away from his fraudulent behaviour. Jesus’ radical inclusion leads to radical transformation.
The promiscuous Samaritan’s outcast squared is challenged for her five husbands and becomes the one who tells the town about Jesus.
The children are hailed by Jesus as the voices of unstoppable praise as he enters the city of God’s dwelling and the place of his death.
The annoyingly loud and impulsive fishermen are firmly told off when their attitudes lead them to call fire down on a village, or to rebuke the Lord of all Creation, and then used to create a movement of billions of followers.
Radical Inclusion HAS to be followed by Radical Transformation.
Otherwise, we will be like the rich young man who walked away because money meant too much, the others who wanted to put family or status before their commitment to where the Lord of Glory wanted to lead them.
And in our day, those who want all the benefits of the life of faith; fellowship, love, hope, joy, peace; but who don’t want the other side; suffering, shame, the cross, putting sin to death in all its forms.
There is no easy way in.
The radical invitation of God in Jesus is TRULY radical. It shames Pride.
Because it calls us to acknowledge that WE are not able to sort ourselves.
That the goal of wholeness is beyond those who live within this broken and fractured world.
That the only true inclusion comes with a call to radical living, a life set apart, lived according to a different set of rules.
Because the framework of God’s call to Holy living is the life support machine, the scafffolding, the skeleton, on which He can rebuild our lives into the true pattern of his design.
Because Radical Inclusion, includes a call to Radical Transformation
And that leads to Radical Wholeness and Radical Holiness.
All are welcome, all are valued, all are precious – too precious for God not to long to transform us, to recreate us as the people He always intended us to be.
It’s Pride Week, and I’m not jealous.
Because Pride isn’t radical enough!