No small thing - January 19th 2020
I’ll never forget his name - Dyanti Padapiti - though I have no idea whether I am spelling it correctly. When I first went to school in Dudley the headteacher told us there was going to be a new wave of Indian faces at the school and it was our job to be as welcoming as possible. Dyanti was the first Indian boy in the school. He was encouraged to join the football team and goalkeeper sounded a good position for him. It worked out great except for me. I had till then been the goalkeeper.
There is in the Bible an exclusivity - you shall have no other gods but me. Circumcision and keeping the law were all signs of that exclusivity. Once they had taken on board the notion that one spouse was probably enough for anybody it was deemed right to be exclusive in marriage too. But there were also calls to be less exclusive in other ways. How you dealt with the stranger, the outsider, the one who was different, was important, too. When they were in exile Isaiah told the people as a whole it was not enough just to restore what they had before. They were to be a light to the nations; that meant being far more inclusive.
When you look at Jesus he brought into the realm of God’s love women, children, people with both physical and mental health troubles, Samaritans, Roman soldiers (Gentiles), rich and poor. Nor was it a matter of respectability either. Outcasts and sinners were welcomed into the kingdom, too.
Now being inclusive comes at a cost as any unknown ex-goalkeeper from the West Midlands will tell you. It’s no small thing. Of course there are relationships which should be exclusive but to be truly inclusive elsewhere and to extend a welcome to those who are different from us does not come without a cost. If you don’t embrace that cost there is a danger our welcome will be restricted to people who are like us.
I wonder if even then God was telling me that some goals could be defended by others but there were now more important ones to be tackled.
“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant
Lord, I suppose I am only now beginning to understand how hard it was for you to embrace tax-gatherers and Samaritans when others you loved deeply found that a step too far. Even your own disciples at times. This was no small thing, was it? Amen.