We live in a neighborhood with a lot of kids, kids who often times play at our house. This is what Dave and I have always wanted. We figure that if our house is a fun place to hang out, a safe and welcoming place for our kids’ friends, then not only can we protect and care best for our own children, but we have the opportunity to get to know, love and serve their friends as well. Almost daily we have neighborhood kids jumping and playing games on our trampoline and on our vast wrap-around tiled porch. We are happy when our own children want to get drinks of water for their friends or share snacks with them. With their parents’ permission, we welcome them inside with our kids to play board games, do arts and crafts, and maybe even watch tv. All of this social activity does not come without conflict. I am consistently reminding my offspring to be kind, make sure everyone feels welcome, to treat others in such a way that they know they are included. While this is not a perfect process, I believe the lessons learned are valuable.
Today one of my children went out into the neighborhood looking for friends to play with. She returned rejected, turned away from a group of kids playing together. I, maybe like you, can think of other similar examples of times when I and my children have been excluded. It hurts. And it got me thinking, and wanting to take action. So after I try to encourage my child, I pray, and I write.
What are exclusivity and inclusivity, what does the Bible say about these, and what does that mean for us?
Let’s start with a definition from Merriam-Webster.
Definition of inclusivity
Simple Definition of inclusive
: covering or including everything
: open to everyone : not limited to certain people
: including the stated limits and everything in between
Open to everyone: not limited to certain people
To be thorough, let’s look at the definition of exclusive as well.
Simple Definition of exclusive
: not shared : available to only one person or group
: only allowing in people from a high social class
: available to only a few people because of high cost
We have all been included, and we have all been excluded. We’ve all included, and we’ve all excluded. I am especially sensitive to the conditions of being included and excluded. Inclusion feels good. Exclusion feels bad.
What does the Bible say about it?
We can read about inclusivity in the book of Romans, chapter 12, verses 15-18 (ESV):
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
In James 2 (ESV), we can read about what is called, “The Sin of Partiality”:
My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory….If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
So what does all of that mean for us?
You may be thinking, but we need to have healthy boundaries. Well, that’s what I am thinking. I certainly believe in healthy boundaries. And maybe those boundaries are different for different people. Our boundaries, however, should coexist with God’s Word. Can we have healthy boundaries but still celebrate and mourn, live in harmony and peace with all others, to the best of our ability? Can we maintain our boundaries while we love others as we love ourselves, love others’ children as we love our own (a tough concept for any parent to grab a hold of), and show mercy to all? Well, I am not saying this is easy. As individuals, as couples, as parents, as friends, as brothers and sisters in Christ, we all need to go to God for wisdom.
My hope and prayer is that we will step away from this message freshly awakened, each to our own ability to include and to exclude, and to how such choices might impact others.