The Joy of Church Connection for Young Believers Day 2: Being Inclusive
“[Be] eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3, ESV)
“For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” (Romans 12:4-5, ESV)
No one likes that gut-wrenching feeling of being the last person left on the field when two captains are picking teams. If you’ve never experienced this feeling because you’re extremely athletic and you always got to be the one picking the team, good for you. Being the last person picked is not something that boosts our esteem—it does quite the opposite. My example may not be very deep, but it well describes that feeling of being an outcast.
Our society is quick to form groups based on many different things—sports teams, political parties, occupations, education levels, and so on. We’re all familiar with the different cliques there are at school, and these cliques sometimes continue through different stages of our lives. We see cliques in our workplace and, sadly, even within our churches. I am guilty of sticking within my clique and not venturing outside of it to check in on others, and I’ve done it without even having a bad intention. I like hearing what my friends are up to and building my relationships with them, but there are others at my church that I know very little about. Community is such a valuable thing, but it begins to lose its worth when it comes at the expense of leaving others out.
When I look at others from my own perspective, I often make quick judgments and think that they may not “fit” into my friend group or that our personalities might not click. This is a warped view, because God longs for us to be “eager to maintain unity” (Ephesians 4:3). However, when I see others how God sees them, my heart is convicted, and I remember that God so loved “the world,” and “whosoever” may come (John 3:16). God doesn’t have limits on who can be saved nor is He judgmental or partial; He longs for all to come to repentance and be saved. I pray that I may see others as God sees them and have the love that He has for all people.
What’s your first reaction when you see someone in a gathering standing alone? I may notice them but I overthink what I’m going to say, and then usually chicken out of going up to talk to them. I’m so impressed by people who have no trouble going up to those who are alone and diving right into conversation. Sometimes I’ve been that someone standing alone in the corner, and I’m thankful for those who have welcomed me and included me in conversation. Even just a simple introduction was enough to make me not feel like an outsider—and most of us are capable of a simple “hello.”
I’ve heard many messages about being inclusive, and I think we all need the reminder (I may need the reminder more than others). It’s easy to fall back into our comfortable pattern where we stick to the same friends and we don’t branch out. Sometimes we might even feel we are doing the right thing by expanding our clique. We may include someone and add them to our group, but the practice of subtle division lives on when we continue the clique. A powerful quote I heard about this topic was from my uncle: “Don’t invite them into your clique; invite them into your life.” We can build meaningful relationships with believers around us, but there is no reason to separate ourselves into cliques as a result. We are designed to be the “body of Christ,” and a body isn’t as effective if it’s separated into parts that don’t communicate and work together (Romans 12:4).
Next time we see someone standing alone, or see someone at our church who is new or someone we haven’t talked to in a while, let’s remember that the Lord desires unity and for all to feel welcomed. Instead of just walking by, let’s choose to introduce ourselves or check in on someone. We have no idea what that might mean to them, but we do know it pleases the Lord when He sees us striving for unity and building relationships with others. You may not feel like you have the personality to do it, but if you pray for confidence and help, I know the Lord will supply this need for you. Instead of allowing a culture of cliques with inevitable outcasts, let’s foster a spirit of inclusivity to show the world the unity found in Christ alone!