Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Passive Exclusion

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” (1 Corinthians 12:21)

The ancient Church in Corinth was in trouble. They were divided and confused. One of the ways their founding pastor, the Apostle Paul, helped them correct their errors was to describe the Church in terms of a body. Like our human bodies, they needed unity through diversity (one body, many parts).

After encouraging each and all to press in for their own inclusion, he flipped perspectives to teach that there is no room for exclusion either. In the pursuit of unity through diversity we cannot allow for any of the parts God has brought together to be pushed out.

The way the Apostle describes this is really sort of absurd. He says “The eye cannot say to the hand, I don’t need you!” meaning that such exclusion in the Church is prohibited. But, of course, the eye cannot say anything to the hand; eyes can’t talk. There is no way for an eye to actively exclude the hand. But it is equally true that the eye cannot go on passively as if the hand does not exist. 

I suspect that this is the message that most of us church folk need to hear. These days, we are seldom guilty of active exclusion (we are polite folks, no keep-out signs posted at the door; we don’t push people out even when they are not like us). But it is so easy to participate in passive exclusion… not actively excluding, but going along as if we don’t need people who aren’t like us, and not doing anything to actively invite those in, or have concern for those, who are not like us.

Truth is… in the Church, if we are not actively including, we are actually excluding.

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