Crossroads: Inclusion is key to connections

New Life Baptist Church minister Donovan Jasper. Photo by Cath Grey

Who doesn’t want to be welcomed?

To really feel like you belong, that people know you and care about you personally?

In recent times it feels like we’ve become much more disconnected as a community.

Many of us are now finding that so many connections and friendships that we previously had assumed or almost taken for granted are no longer available, and it’s hard work trying to navigate through life constantly attempting to re-establish all those relationships that are essential to help us function and feel included in our community.

How can we re-discover this experience of welcome and inclusion?

For me, as a member of a Christian church, I have found this belonging and welcome in the community of my local church.

Now, you might think that there’s nothing odd or spectacular about that.

It makes sense for people to feel included when they’re hanging out with ‘their people’.

But here’s the strange part, many of the people in my church community are not who we would typically define as ‘my people’.

We have different interests, different backgrounds, different political and social views, and sometimes we don’t even like each other.

And yet, we are able to experience a community of welcome and inclusion.

Why is that? Because we’re a family.

If you think about your family, you’ll know that there are members who you strongly disagree with, and yet you don’t stop welcoming them, loving them and including them in important events, because you share a deeper connection than that surface level of interests or hobbies.

As they say, ‘blood is thicker than water’.

This is what it’s like to be part of God’s family:

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also member of his household.” (Ephesians 2:13,19-20).

This is a level of reconciliation and connection that goes far deeper than the surface level of mere ‘acceptance’ or ‘tolerance’ that our society promotes.

I was recently fortunate enough to join the hordes of travellers making a mass exodus from the Australian winter to some warmer climes overseas.

After navigating the passport office high-wire act and the vagaries and stresses of multiple airports, airlines, transfers and layovers with three young children in tow, we found ourselves deposited in a foreign country, knowing no-one and having no connections to call on to welcome us into this new and strange place where we would need to survive for the next period of time.

That was until Sunday, when we found our way to a regular local church gathering, and instantly we were surrounded by people that felt like family.

As a believer in Jesus, I share a deep connection with other believers who welcome and care for me no matter who or where we are.

This is one of the amazing blessings that comes from trusting your life to Jesus, you can become a part of His family too.

— Pastor Donovan Jasper, New Life Baptist Church