I know of no-more potent killer than isolation. There is no more destructive influence on physical and mental health than the isolation of you from me and of us from them. It has been shown to be a central agent in the etiology of depression, paranoia, schizophrenia, rape, suicide, mass murder, and a wide variety of disease states. … The devil’s strategy for our times is to trivialize human existence and to isolate us from one another while creating the delusion that the reasons are time pressures, work demands, or economic anxieties. Philip G. Zimbardo
One of the most famously exclusive shops in the UK is Harrods. People will go and spend thousands of pounds on suits, jewellery, homewares and even groceries of the kind of quality many of us could not even dream of. It even has a dress code to get in.
I have been to Ikea this New Year and noticed how inclusive it was. You walk around and view the wares set out in a visually attractive and tactile way. The range of expense goes from budget designs to more high quality items. Their products cut across demographics such as age, gender and class. Above all their vision really struck me;
“To create a better everyday life for the many people”, this is the IKEA vision. Our business idea is “to offer a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them”.
In my own life I have been both excluded from events and social groups and I have also regrettably been the excluder.
Jesus was the greatest includer the world has ever seen. I especially like the way he included his disciples from the beginning, inviting them to be a part of His revolution of Love and the promise of the Kingdom of God. It starts with His own baptism into the faith of the Jews by John and then Andrew and Philip want to swap allegiance from John to Jesus. Jesus takes them with Him and together Andrew introduces Simon Peter to Jesus and then Nathanael and Jesus spends some time with them. A little while later Jesus approaches these brothers and others in James and John (the sons of thunder!!) at the lake and calls them to be included in what He was doing.
When He went to synagogue one Saturday He made it plain just what it was he was including them in.
Luke 4:16-21New International Version (NIV)
16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”[f]
20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him.21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
This is the vision of the Hub church. We are to be authentic disciples, carrying out the mission and vision God has placed on our flock. We are being guided into being a more inclusive group of people, which means things will change. We’re living in a society that’s continually changing….
This will mean more messy lives, more broken hearts, more time and sacrifice required to help. What are you willing to do to get on board?
This doesn’t stop with just the Hub church, though. I believe this is for all churches, Christians and even people outside the faith to learn how to become more inclusive with their own lives.
As the former US president Franklin D. Roosevelt said
‘We are trying to construct a more inclusive society. We are going to make a country in which no one is left out.’
As the church, we should be aiming to include all people. That doesn’t mean we approve or validate all behaviours, but it does mean setting aside our own judgements and working together for a better, stronger, more future-oriented church.
As a preacher, I listen to regularly says; People who were nothing like Jesus liked Jesus and He liked them back.
For many of us reading this, we are already included in a great church community and that’s great because to be inclusive you first need to be included. You can’t invite someone to something you’re not a part of. So what are some next steps?
Make a new friend(s) at work/ in your neighbourhood/ at school/ in toddler group
Invite someone to church
Get there early to welcome embrace and love people that have been invited
Be available for coffee midweek- you being there could be the difference in someone’s salvation
Be committed to a connect group/ bible study/ prayer group
Get involved in the wider community.
Together we can make a better future.