What does it mean when I see or hear the word ‘exclusive’. Perhaps something desirable, or it might refer to something that excludes me and my family. Or even something unobtainable, beyond my reach.
All this set me wondering whether Christianity itself can be considered 'exclusive', since it excludes those who do not accept that Jesus' death on the cross is for the forgiveness of sin. It seems to me that some things about the 'two ideas' are similar, yet other things are different.
As I pondered these matters, I realised there is a sense of 'exclusivity' in what many of us seek when purchasing anything, be it from a home, to a motor car to a swimming pool to the clothes we wear. This also applies to what we choose to believe and accept about Jesus Christ.
But are these two meanings the same, I wondered?
We generally use the word 'exclusive' in a very materialistic way. An 'exclusive' address is where the 'posh' houses are; Toorak, Elizabeth Bay, Dalkeith; or if overseas Mayfair, London or Upper East Side, New York; An 'exclusive' school would be only for children of families who are approved of by the school board; an 'exclusive' club would be for members of a certain group (such as those who have a 'primary' in cricket, or those who can afford the fees to play on a scenic golf course).
Most of the time, we think of this in terms of money and status: if you have enough money, you can display your high status to the world around you by being a member of some 'exclusive' activity that keeps out the riff raff.
It can also apply to our personal tastes in the things we buy. In one of the episodes of the hilarious television sitcom episodes, 'Keeping up Appearances', Patricia Routledge who plays the eccentric, social-climbing snob Hyacinth Bucket, finds herself in the same dress as one of her guests. One might imagine the drama.
Although it is comedy, women know the embarrassment of being seen in the same outfit as someone else at the same function, particularly if they have paid a premium to choose something that is not 'on the racks' in the department stores â€“ in other words, something exclusive.
The opulence of a Bentley
The whole idea of an 'exclusive' product, seen to be something desirable but usually unattainable, and relying on retaining a high quality outcome to keep up its good name was epitomised in a Sydney Morning Herald about the Bentley Continental GT motor vehicle. The final paragraph stated: "Bentley ownership has always been about exclusivity and it doesn't look like changing."
Wikipedia tell us that Bentley Motors Limited is a British manufacturer of automobiles founded on 18 January 1919 by Walter Owen Bentley (known as W.O. Bentley or just "W.O."). Since 1998, the company has been owned by VW of Germany and the firm is based in Crewe, England.
Let me rattle on about the exclusiveness of the Bentley. Rolls-Royce purchased the Bentley in 1931 and renamed it, Bentley Motors (1931) Ltd and retained control to 1998. When the new Bentley 3.5 litre appeared in 1933, it was a sporting variant of the Rolls Royce 20/25, which disappointed some traditional customers yet was well-received by many others. Even Bentley himself was reported as saying, "Taking all things into consideration, I would rather own this Bentley than any other car produced under that name"
After acquiring the Company in 1998, Volkswagen spent £500 million to modernise the Crewe factory and increase production capacity and staff.
In 2002, Bentley presented Queen Elizabeth II with an official State Limousine to celebrate the Golden Jubilee. In 2003, Bentley's 2-door convertible, the Bentley Azure, ceased production, and the company introduced a second line, Bentley Continental GT, a large luxury coupe powered by a W12 engine built in Crewe.
A new Bentley version of the Bentley Continental was introduced at the 2009 , a supercar combining extreme power with environmentally friendly FlexFuel technology and is unmistakeably Bentley in design, craftsmanship and performance.
'Exclusivity' is the name of the game when it comes to this car, with a price tag ranging from $405,714 plus costs.
As a Christian minister, pondering on this idea of exclusivity, I wondered if this was the message that really is expressed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The 'materialistic idea' of something like the Bentley was rejected by Jesus in his actions, his words and the way he lived (and exhorted his followers to live).
The story of the rich man who did not go to Heaven, and the poor man, Lazarus, who did, is told in Luke chapter 16 verses 19-31. It is only one of many such stories about how wealth cannot guarantee entry to the Kingdom of God.
In contrast to social or material 'exclusivity', Jesus' Salvation is available to everyone - rich or poor, high status or low, young or old. In this way, it is 'inclusive' of the whole of mankind and is not at all like the expensive golf club or the Bentley or a designer dress.
However, regarding these possessions and memberships, I accept that individuals can choose whether to save their pennies and whether it is important for them to join one of those 'exclusive' groups. In this way, it is similar to Christian belief because each individual person can choose whether or not to accept Christ's sacrifice on the Cross and be forgiven of their sins.
Christianity is therefore 'exclusive' because it excludes those who do not have Faith in the Lord Jesus. The difference is that one is a material possession, that only those 'lucky' enough to have the cash to pay for can afford to be one of the 'exclusive'; whereas Jesus' Salvation is exclusive only in the Spiritual sense; that the choice is within the heart and mind of each person individually.
Jesus' death on the cross for the forgiveness of sin is equally available to each person as to every other person, only depending on their acceptance of His sacrifice for their sin. This is the remarkable difference between the 'exclusivity' of Jesus' Salvation and that of worldly status and material possessions to accept the Word of Jesus for Salvation, you do not need to have enough cash to buy a Bentley. You can choose Salvation, whomever you are and whatever your social status.
As Christmas is celebrated whether people believe or don't believe that their sins have been forgiven by Jesus' death on the cross - we might ponder for ourselves where does Christmas fit into this 'exclusivity'?
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 25 books, and enjoys writing. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand. Dr Mark Tronson’s Press Service International in 2019 was awarded ‘The Gutenberg’ - the Australasian Religious Press Association’s premier award. In September 2020 Summer Moore presented her commission portrait of Dr Mark Tronson holding the Gutenberg plaque. He and David Chang editor of Christian Today together bought the young writer ministry into fruition in 2009. In 2011 Mark established Laguna Quays Respite (Whitsundays) for missionary respite and replicated at Aldinga Beach 2016 (Adelaide) and Greens Beach Bass Straight (TAS). His ministry is honoured all these years by Christian philanthropist Mr Basil Sellers AM. He is married to Delma (44 years), with four adult married children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at https://www.pressserviceinternational.org/dr-mark-t.html