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The question of who are the good guys and who are the bad guys is discussed candidly in this article, which refers to the writer's personal feelings toward Quakers as well as toward Jesus Christians.

I regularly use the Lord's Prayer as an outline for my personal devotions, trying to express in my own words the general themes of the prayer: praise; a desire for God's will, for more love, and for forgiveness; a plea to be kept safe from deception; etc. But today I was stopped at the first two words.

When I pray, I usually do so by myself, and as such, I more or less address God as my Father. But obviously, if he's our Father then there must be a your to go with my my. My problem is this: Who are you?

Whenever we (the Jesus Christians) are accused of being a cult, the same old list of accusations are dragged out that are used against anyone else the status quo dislikes, and one of them is to say that we believe we are the only ones who are going to be saved. Can they seriously think that we believe the 25 or so members of our tiny little community are the only people on earth who are going to be saved? And to a lesser extent, do they think we are teaching that membership in our community guarantees salvation?

The task of defining the "our" in "Our Father" is not an easy one for us, but then neither is it easy for them. Ask our accusers to delineate who is saved and who is not, and they too will be stumped. Can they, for example, say categorically that we are such terrible heretics that the grace of God will not allow any of us into heaven? Can they say that the 1500 organisations that they have labelled as cults are all without hope? Certainly cult busters are amongst the greatest exclusivists in the world. And then ask them which denominations are the "safe" ones, that is, the ones which will be able to guarantee people entrance into heaven. More pointedly, ask them to tell you what the criteria are that will absolutely guarantee salvation, and without which there can be no salvation. It's not an easy task.

For myself, the "our" in "Our Father" is disturbingly nebulous. It is this mystery which Jesus called the kingdom of heaven, an invisible kingdom, whose membership list only the Lamb himself has total access to. (Revelation 13:8)

We, meaning those of us who are a part of that kingdom (and as much as I would like to be a part of it, there are many times when I feel that I am just skirting around the edges, or even wandering deliberately away), are one with all those of sincere faith throughout the ages and throughout the world, regardless of their theology or their religious affiliation.

I attended mass yesterday at a Catholic Church here in Woomera. It's the only church in town, and the only denomination allowed regular access to the hundreds of refugees being held here. I felt joy for a woman and her son from Iran, who were anointed with oil as a step toward them becoming members of that body... not because I agree with the teachings of the Catholic Church, but because it may have represented a significant step in that deeply traumatised family's search for God and his love. I could see that she had suffered a lot, and some of it was, no doubt, at the hands of detention centre guards, one of whom accompanied her to mass and partook of it with her. But I also could see that she had responded to the love that she had found in a deeply caring priest, and in the fellowship she had been offered within that little congregation. When we prayed "Our Father..." together, perhaps she and the priest and others in the congregation were part of my "our".

But I also felt that I was talking to the Father of many Muslims, and my heart ached that they were not able to enjoy the same hour of freedom once a week that a tiny handful of detainees get as their reward for becoming Catholics. I asked "our Father" to bring his kingdom out there in the camp for my Muslim brothers and sisters too.

When I am with fellow Quakers, of course, I feel a much greater sense of God being our Father, for here are others who share my indifference to religious tags, and who look for something akin to what I have called sincerity.

Around evangelicals I find a different sense of oneness. They seem to have a greater appreciation for the ultimate authority of our Father. If he says something, then it is not our business to re-interpret it in terms of what suits us or in terms of what is the latest fashion. Evangelicals can relate to my expectation that Jesus is going to return soon, to my attempts to take the teachings of Jesus literally, to my belief in miracles and answered prayers, to my hope of life after death.

And then there are my brothers and sisters in the Jesus Christians community, who have accepted both the universal scope of God's love and the "narrow way" that the disciplines of Jesus represent. Obviously, this is where I feel most strongly the you that makes up my our. But, of course, even amongst ourselves, there are differences, and there are doubts. Are we all really acting out of pure motives? Is our faith truly in God and Jesus, or is it in our own little system?

I will continue to pray to "our Father", but none of my rambling thoughts have resolved the issue of who we are. And until his kingdom comes, perhaps that is how it ought to be.

(See also The Body of Christ.)

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