Inclusion

What’s easier? To think of inclusion or exclusion? Or, perhaps a better question: whom do we exclude vs whom do we include?

Within churches, specifically, the question of inclusivity often arises around the interpretation of scripture. We take a look at the Law and from that, we work out what Laws we feel comfortable keeping and which we feel comfortable to break and then we use that as a way to measure other people’s acceptability. Anyone who falls outside of our acceptance is excluded. Everyone else is included. Does that sound true to you?

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve fallen into that trap myself over many years. The verses I now use as a plumb line are, ‘There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.’ – Romans 8:1-2 (NKJV)

Jesus, from my perspective, is inclusive. He doesn’t exclude anyone. If he did, he would exclude me, and no doubt he would exclude you. But, this is rather liberal theologically speaking, isn’t it?

Perhaps spend some time thinking about who you exclude, and why? Also, think about whether you have been/are excluded because of who you are or what you have done?

Forgiveness

In 2015 I attended a service on forgiveness. During this service I heard a testimony from Renée Napier, the mother of Meagan Napier who was killed, along with her best friend Lisa Dickson, in a car accident in 2002 (they were 20 years old). The driver of the car that hit them, named Eric, was under the influence of alcohol and went to prison for his offence.

Renée’s story was that of the Healing Power of Forgiveness and it was both powerful and inspirational. Her testimony is that she forgave Eric and petitioned the judge to reduce his sentence by half. Eric then became a Christian and they now tour together (and separately) to tell of the power of forgiveness and warn against Driving Under the Influence (DUI).

I knew beforehand that going to this service would be tough and that listening would be even tougher. I knew within myself the reason why. I was bitter, unforgiving and hurting at a very deep level. However, hearing someone’s story is so much more powerful than trying to learn the do’s and don’ts of forgiveness out of a book.

Hearing the process of her forgiveness touched me to my core. I very quickly went through a ‘grieving’ process as I listened e.g. anger, denial, fear etc.

One of the biggest things that I learned was that I needed to ‘stop drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die’ – which was a quote that Renee used during her testimony. She was correct – it was slowly killing me like cancer.

Since 2015, my walk of living an ever-increasing forgiving life has been tumultuous and extremely painful. I’ve learnt a lot about what forgiveness does and doesn’t include. Despite all this learning, I still find it extremely difficult to forgive myself, and others.

I’m going to leave you with a question and action step, before praying for us.

Question: In what ways do you struggle with forgiveness of yourself or others?

Action Step: Journal, or pray, about any of the ways you wish to grow in forgiveness.

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for helping us grow as your faithful disciples. Lord, it often feels difficult to navigate the complexity and settle ourselves on tough content. Thank you for always loving us. Where we struggle to forgive ourselves, others, or you please help us. Amen.

If you want to read more about this topic, please join my mailing list so that I can let you know when the book is published.

Acceptance

Acceptance

Acceptance Original Art

This is the first in my collection of faith-based discipleship paintings. I’m painting this collection alongside writing a book on the complexities faced within Christian discipleship.

I painted vertical stripes of different skin tones on top of a blue and orange pattern. Then I painted a red and gold border and added white ‘bubbles’.

I chose this design because I wanted to clearly represent that everyone is accepted by God and He draws us all to Himself – like moths to a flame. The border represents safety. The bubbles represent fluidity and gentleness, fun and freedom.

“Accept that you are accepted, despite the fact that you are unacceptable” – Paul Tillich.

This quote holds a challenge for us, doesn’t it? 

Oftentimes we feel that acceptance is conditional. This stems largely from social norms. For example, I can acceptably wear a bikini to the beach, but wearing a bikini to Tesco would be frowned upon and unacceptable.

t seems to me that this sort of acceptance – accepted even when unacceptable- sets us in good stead for growing in unconditional love and inclusion.

For a really long time, I acted more like a Jewish Pharisee rather than a disciple of Jesus. This is difficult to admit. But, like the apostle Paul I have had quite a dramatic change of heart. One of the chapters in the Bible that helped me with this most is Romans 14.

I have been thinking about this topic for a long while and there seems to be a scale of acceptance. On one end you have radical judgement and on the other, you have radical acceptance. In the middle, you have a neutral position. The reason I mention this scale is that both ends of the scale can cause relational issues, particularly between disciples on opposite ends of the scale.

In Romans 15:7 it says, ‘accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.’

I’m going to leave you with a question and action step, before praying for us.

Question: In what ways do you struggle to accept yourself, or others?

Action Step: Journal, or pray, about any of the ways you wish to grow in acceptance.

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for helping us grow as your faithful disciples. Lord, it often feels difficult to navigate the complexity and settle ourselves on tough content. Thank you for always loving us. Where we struggle to accept ourselves, others, or accept that you accept us, please help, guide, and comfort us. Amen.