Ever notice the human tendency to want to relate up? The way we sometimes think about things—more, bigger, better, faster, stronger, higher—gets focused on relationships. When we seek to relate up, we try to position ourselves in the proximity of influencers, people who can benefit us in some way, leaders whose “shine” might just rub off on us a little bit.
Relating up is kind of like getting into an exclusive club. What happens when you make it? When you become a card-carrying club member? Many respond by doing everything they can to raise the standards and keep all the underlings, underdogs, and especially the riff-raff out. To raise those intangible “standards” of the exclusive club, expectations are piled on. Rules are made to manage out messy stuff—and messy people. Access is limited. Dues go up to create costs that discourage some from joining and completely prevent others. All to guard the rights and privileges.
But the word exclusive harbors, at its core, another word: Exclude. We have to be aware of—and reject—this kind of thinking in the church. Among followers of Jesus, this attitude should never exist. But it creeps in. Why? Because, well... we’re forgetful. And we skillfully, at times unconsciously, ignore our own state of dire need. It’s been estimated that, after choosing to follow Jesus, we forget within six months what it was like to be a lost person. We can begin to mistakenly think of ourselves as insiders instead of the grace-filled rescue-story we really are.
Pride subtly sneaks in, and that pride puffs us up. We think we earned or deserve our place in God’s family. And we can start to become defensive, more easily offended, and prone to anger and frustration with others—some of the very things Jesus warned us against. But we can’t dismiss the fact that Jesus invites us to humbly go lower. We don’t need to pull up our proverbial bootstraps. We aren’t expected to become independent and head out on our own, but rather to remain dependent and at home in the Lord’s family. God’s economy is so much different. Everyone is welcome. The door is opened to those who knock. Everyone who seeks finds.
Remember that Jesus opened the way for everyone to enter into the presence of God. Forever. Everyone. No one should be excluded. Who can you extend the love—and welcome—of Jesus to today?