A Church for Those It Cannot Bear to Include

Consider the cliche: ‘…the church is the only society in the world which exists for the sake of those who are not members of it.’ It is true enough that the church is for others. Yet, claiming the church is the only true altruistic society is not enough truth.

First, claiming the church is the only altruistic society is taking it too far.  Such a claim does not do justice to either the church or other societies. The World Wide Fund for Nature, I imagine, would be appalled at such a claim. The Red Cross does not serve only its members.

Second, let us ask: what would Jesus do or not do, or for a bit of spice, what would Jesus think or not think of such a quote. Aside: I would never risk speaking on Jesus’ behalf if not for the Christian virtue of forgiveness. The answer would be: ‘What?’ More exactly: ‘What is the church?’ Jesus was not the founder of a church. Rather, He mostly spent time with those the established religion did not want. The poor, the lepers, the blind, the filthy, and those enriched by hubris. These are not the regular church-going folk. They smelled either of poverty or of injustices towards the poor.

The church is not a society that exists for non-members’ sake, in as far as those non-members are or become acceptable to the church. So, let us try to transform this cliche into a useful quote. Let us dream of a church, full of spice, space, spirit and compassion. A church that will be the only society that exists for the sake of those it cannot bear to include. A church for others.

Author Details

Calvyn du Toit

Calvyn C. du Toit is a PhD-candidate in Christian Spirituality at the University of South Africa (UNISA), and a Research Associated in the Department of Christian Dogmatics and Ethics at the University of Pretoria. He lives in New York City, where he is h(o)us(e)band to Christine, and 6PM Music Director at the Church of the Holy Trinity (Episcopal).

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