Monday’s Meditation:  Today I want us to mediate on our love for others, our inclusion of others.  I want us to examine our hearts and lives and see where we are being exclusive or disconnected from others.  ‘Others’ being those who do not attend our Christian community.

Jesus on exclusion by Lisa Hunt-Wotton

The clear teaching of Jesus is forgiveness and love of enemy.  This is non negotiable.  However, today this teaching is not looked at as central to Jesus teaching.

Justice and generosity to the poor and the outsider is very very clear.  Yet Christians today think of nothing of amassing millions of dollars of stuff.  Jesus had a bias toward the poor.  Rich nations don’t want to hear this.  His consistant message was one of inclusivity.  He NEVER excludes people.
Most of the world thinks of religious institutions as exclusive.  It’s a country club with exclusion rules.  Yet every time that Jesus eats, he is at the wrong table, with the wrong people and doing the wrong thing.  You could say that Jesus was crucified because of who he ate with.  He redid the social order and this upset both Church and state.  If we as Christians are more concerned about who cannot come to our table than about who can, then something is wrong.
I quote John Pavlovitz when I say: there is no such thing as a ‘real’ Christian or a ‘good’ Christian or a ‘true’ Christian; only a flawed Christian.  Have we forgotten this?
Not long ago I attended break out session at a training seminar.  We sat at tables of 10 to discuss some questions.  All of us were Christian ministry leaders all working full time in the church.  The question was – ‘What do you do to interact with unchurched people’?  ( scary that this is even a question).  I was the only person at the table who had any unchurched friends or family (insert disappointing sigh).  
Photo by Atilla Siha

Photo by Atilla Siha

One of the pastors of a large church said “I asked my neighbours to church once and they didn’t come so I didn’t bother speaking to them after that – I don’t have the time”. I was speechless.  I find this profoundly disturbing.  We are too busy doing the ‘work of God’ apparently.  Yet we are doing the complete opposite to what Christ did.  We spend most of our time and energy keeping the Christian bubble pumped up when we should be living, being and participating in the community around us.

We carry the presence of God within us.  That presence goes with us into every situation bringing light into the world, light into relationships, light into dark places, light into family conflict and brokenness.  Jesus said it best when he said in Mark 2:17:
Jesus told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor–sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
What makes us think that we are superior, what makes us think that we should keep ourselves ‘set a part’ when Jesus told us to ‘go out’.  Jesus ate with normal every day people, he didn’t avoid them, He didn’t just talk to them IF they came to the temple.  In fact He targeted the ones that were not allowed into the temple.  Can we say that we do the same in our discussions of who is allowed to come, who is allowed to attend, who is allowed to be a member.  Jesus rates himself as the least when He says “whatever you do for the least of these you do for me” (Matt 25).

“I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me”.

“We believe that God is only found by our group.  We then claim that identification with our group is the only way to serve God. When the way becomes an end in itself, it becomes idolatry”(Rohr).  We think that we are good and the others are bad therefore we will only expend our time and energy on the good people, the ones that ‘belong’ to the ‘group’.

The ability to respond to the outsider is probably the true litmus test of a believer.  The ability to respect the outsider is  probably the litmus test of true seeing (Rohr).

I fear that with all our formulas for reaching ‘the lost’ we have actually lost the true heart of what it means to ‘be’ Christ in this world.  To love, to include, to find wonder in, to hear wisdom from the outsider.  To be thankful, to enjoy, to relax and just ‘be ourselves’ with our neighbours and our friends and see them as valuable, love them and include them in our lives because we genuinely love them not because we have some hidden agenda.
It’s not that hard people.

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