A Sense of Belonging
Lord, help me to promote a sense of unity and equal appreciation for all in my church.
Read Exodus 12:43–51
43 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “These are the regulations for the Passover meal:
“No foreigner may eat it. 44 Any slave you have bought may eat it after you have circumcised him, 45 but a temporary resident or a hired worker may not eat it.
46 “It must be eaten inside the house; take none of the meat outside the house. Do not break any of the bones. 47 The whole community of Israel must celebrate it.
48 “A foreigner residing among you who wants to celebrate the Lord’s Passover must have all the males in his household circumcised; then he may take part like one born in the land. No uncircumcised male may eat it. 49 The same law applies both to the native-born and to the foreigner residing among you.”
50 All the Israelites did just what the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron. 51 And on that very day the Lord brought the Israelites out of Egypt by their divisions.
New International Version (NIV)
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“All peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Gen. 12:3). Lord, make me a blessing to those I meet.
Who’s in and who’s out? This is an issue that crops up in our churches, just as much as in ancient Israel. Our passage makes very clear that forthcoming participants in the Passover feast must belong to the covenant community, as demonstrated by circumcision; it was established exclusively for those committed to the Lord, not for anyone who just fancied coming along. Does the same principle apply for participants in the Lord’s Supper, that is, should participation be limited to those who’ve been baptized? Indeed, if the operating principle is personal commitment to Christ, is baptism the most helpful evidence of this? Or is it fair to say that Jesus welcomes all who come to his table, even if they are not yet committed? Different churches will take different lines on this, but one thing stands out: those who truly belong to God will show evidence of commitment to him.
Note that the issue was not racial or social: the promise to Abraham was that all nations would be blessed (Gen. 12:1–3), so both aliens and slaves were welcomed at the Passover feasts, providing they were willing to be circumcised. There should indeed be no barriers for anyone desiring to belong to God’s people. Sadly, however, there are many today who do not feel welcome in our churches, perhaps because of a different culture or skin color, or because of some disability—physical, mental, intellectual or sensory. In my very multi-ethnic diocese there are plans to offer “unconscious bias” training as an attempt to rectify this problem.
Does your church provide the sort of environment where anyone, however different, would feel welcome? At the same time, does it encourage those who haven’t yet fully committed to Christ to do so?
Read James 2:1–5. Does God play favorites in the Body of Christ? Do we?
Forgive me, Lord, for my bias towards the people I feel most comfortable with. Help me to change my attitude so as to reflect Your attitude of welcoming everyone.