Posted by: richard | 15 April, 2010

An inclusive community

We had a good discussion on Monday around the subject of being an inclusive community.  We noted that Jesus ate with marginalised people (be they rich – tax collectors – or scandalous – or unclean) and that very act of each was shocking as it signifies acceptance, friendship, a real desire to spend time with someone (middle eastern meals were not fast-food!), and the status of equals.   Acceptance by Jesus came before changed lives.  Since Jesus came to ‘seek the lost’, the meal-table seemed a key way he got alongside people.

We then discussed who we need to include.  One question referred to the ‘working class’ – as if lower income is the discriminating factor?  We asked: are middle-class people too comfortable to really search for God?  In large part, maybe yes, but does being working class create more spiritual need?  We thought this was the wrong axis and came back to talk about people in whom God is working (be they rich tax collector types or at the bottom of the economic ladder).  People of peace.

The discussion got into ‘but how many people can we really befriend, and can we really befriend people we don’t really relate to so well?’  We concluded that we will all have some deep friendships but we are called to ‘scatter the net wide’ too in some sense and maintain broader passing relationships, showing acceptance to all we come across, in the hope that they will search Jesus out (via us) when they are ready, just like it was the ‘tax collectors and sinners’ who searched Jesus out.  I gave the example of an acquaintance of my mothers who was a faithful Christian witness over a 20 year period and really helped my mother as a true friend when the chips were down.

Concretely this might mean taking that initiative of acceptance and inviting all kinds of people we cross paths with for a meal or coffee, but not pushing it (if we don’t get a sign they want to develop the friendship a lot further).

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Responses

  1. Just to say I know I talked a lot but I really benefited from Monday’s discussion and I feel a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders – I somehow felt I had to have a deep friendship with each person I invited… but have since had 3 coffees/gouters and have also invited 3 “wider net” people round in the next two weeks! The example of Richard’s mum’s friend was particularly helpful. Thanks guys for bearing with me and helping me sort it out in my head!

  2. Cool!

    You just reminded me of the other step we mentioned – namely, look out for moments when someone in our wider circle of acquaintances really does need blessing… and then go over and above what they might expect in order to show them the overflowing love of God.


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