Our pastor shared a powerful story the other day about the importance of inclusion, love, and respect, especially toward people who are different from us.
An older gentleman at our church grew up in foster care, and bounced around from home to home growing up. There was one foster home he stayed in that was especially difficult. The family would all eat together inside, but they made him eat his dinner outside by himself. He was literally excluded from the life of the family.
After this placement, he landed at a loving foster home. One Sunday morning, the family took him to church. When it was time to have communion, they went up to the front of the church to participate as a family. However, the mean foster parents went to the same church, and when the child tried to take communion, the mean dad tried to block him, saying he wasn’t welcome.
The Table Isn’t Yours
The kind foster dad, however, stood up for his child and told the mean dad to back off, saying, “The table isn’t yours.”
What a powerful statement: The table isn’t yours. It isn’t up to us to decide who’s in and who’s out. God loves everybody the same, irrespective of our past upbringing, credentials, or lack thereof. God’s table is open to everyone. And if you’re trying to block someone else from engaging with God, you’re way off base.
I think this is really important to keep in mind as we navigate religious, political, and ideological differences. When you are tempted to exclude someone because they aren’t part of your group, remember the table isn’t yours. When you think about splitting your community instead of working together with those who are different than you, remember the table isn’t yours. And when you start to turn up your nose at someone because something about their lifestyle isn’t acceptable to you… remember the table isn’t yours.
What type of person or group do you struggle to include in your community? What kinds of people do you have a strong negative reaction toward? What can you do to remind yourself that the table isn’t yours?
Photo Credit: David LaChapelle