Thursday, March 5th

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Thursday, March 5th

The Joy of Inclusion

It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you.

—Acts 15:28

When my husband, Daniel, and I were first dating, one of the characteristics about him that stood out to me immediately was the way he included other people. It’s as if he has a constant radar up for those around him who are on the fringes, who feel left out, who don’t quite fit in. He has a knack not just for acknowledging these individuals or showing kindness to them but also for integrating them with the rest of the group. With these gifts, it’s no wonder he has devoted his life to working with individuals with special needs—and no wonder that in some groups he’s known by the nickname “The Includer.”

Over the years, as I’ve witnessed Daniel interacting with people the rest of the world might shun or ignore, the thing that strikes me most is that while Daniel treats these individuals with compassion, he doesn’t view them with pity or condescension. He includes them not because he feels sorry for them but because he feels sorry for what the rest of us would miss out on if we were deprived of these individuals’ unique contributions.

He knows that every person has a role to play in creating a healthy community, and we can only be the unified body God created us to be when members of all backgrounds, abilities, and gifts are represented.

When the early church found themselves at a crossroads in terms of the Gentile question—could non-Jews be accepted as followers of Christ just as they were?—they faced a dilemma about what the membership dues would be to enter the church. To be part of the “in” group, would people have to show a proper pedigree, have the right external markings, and have the right background, the right kind of family, the right nationality?

After some discussion among the church leaders, and after they sought wisdom from the Holy Spirit, here was the decision they came to: that the Gentile believers should not be burdened with additional requirements (Acts 15:28).

The early church came to the same conclusion Daniel has come to, both in his job with special-needs students and in life: that much joy can be found in inclusion. When we bring together people who are different from one another, we experience a deeper, richer unity than we could experience from a group of people who are exactly alike.

What types of people might not feel welcome in our church (or in the church as a whole) if they walked in on a Sunday morning? What’s one way you could include someone who’s different from you and make that person feel welcome?

—Stephanie Rische

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