We all have special friends, people we like to spend time with because we enjoy their company. Maybe our likes and dislikes are similar, or we share the same sense of humour or taste in pizzas. Whatever the reason, they are special and we don’t have many friends like that. It’s not that we don’t like other people it’s just that we get on with some a whole lot better than with others. Is that a problem, or is it wrong?
Of course not! The danger lies in deliberately excluding people from our social groups for some reason.
Think of ‘Inclusion’ as a Christian delight, not a political policy.
My dear brothers and sisters how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favour some people over others?
You see it so often in school – children and young people can be ruthlessly damning if they think someone is an oddball. They avoid sitting next to them in class, talk about them behind their backs, shun them when it comes to picking teams, and might even resort to bullying if they had a vicious streak. They don’t invite them to their parties and they wouldn’t be seen dead with them on the journey home. Children can be masters of the exclusion game, and they are not even subtle about it!
Adults can be so much more subtle about it. A newcomer can be seen as a threat and so kept at arm’s length. And who wants to sit next to the person who is really obese … or vaguely odorous … or has screaming kids … or won’t stop talking at you …or … you can complete the list! Most of us have an inbuilt preference scheme, however subconsciously we operate it.
Hence, learning to be inclusive and genuinely love people regardless of their outward circumstances is not something that comes easily. But, praises be, God operates no such exclusion system. Jesus touched the lepers, went out in a boat with malodorous fishermen, had meals with tax collectors who were social outcasts, and even allowed a prostitute to dry his feet with her hair. It seems that Jesus operated across every social divide – even the Pharisees were not excluded from his company. So when you set out as a Jesus-follower you sign up to the same policy and practice of ‘Inclusion’. It may take a while and some conscious practical steps to implement it, but it is part of our practical Christianity.