Universal and Restricted
We see this tension manifested in many ways, sometimes in people who lean strongly to one side or the other. Some emphasize the universalism of God’s grace: the extreme can be found in Unitarian churches that even have atheists as members (although there are Catholic parishes that seem allergic to anything that might be perceived as exclusionary). On the opposite extreme, some seem intent on purging from the Church anyone who is not perfect. Others try to avoid these two extremes and muddle in the middle.
So, which is it? Universal or restricted? Actually, it's both - and there are two ways in which we must live this out.
First, we must live this out within ourselves.
No matter who we are or where we come from or what we have done, God reaches out to us - his call is universal. We should never despair. We should always open ourselves to God's grace that comes to us through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Yet, opening to that grace means letting it make a difference in our lives. Too often we don't let God make a difference in our lives, we refuse to change or grow, we stubbornly cling to our personal status quo. We dare not restrict God or close ourselves to His grace: we must strive to be ever more faithful to God in our life..
Second, we must live this out with one another.
No matter who people are or where they come from or what they have done, we are called to reach out to them and in some way to be channels of God's grace. Christ commands us to preach the Gospel to every creature. We must do everything we can so that everyone may come to Christ.
Yet it must be the true Gospel and the true Christ. We do no one any favors by misleading anyone about what is true and what is not. The words and actions of a believer should be restricted to those that are consistent with the truth of Christ. Prudence may call for a particular person to be brought to the fullness of the truth step-by-step or for a particular person to be given a little time and space to grow, but we dare not say or do anything that would lead a person to believe that the truth is not the truth.
The call to salvation is universal and we must be universal as instruments of that call. The response to that call, however, must be real, it must grow to be evermore perfectly consistent with the truth of Christ. That may seem like a restriction to those heading toward nothingness, but believers see clearly that this is the road to salvation.
I am the Way and the Truth and the Life, says the Lord,
No one comes to the Father except through Me.
Amen, Lord Jesus!
Shepherd us all in the Truth that leads to eternal life.