Last night’s dinner was in a wonderful albergue in a tiny village near Astorga. It was a feast of the nations, of FOUR continents, people gathered around a simple, delicious feast. Everyone was included, and seemed to actually feel included, amidst multiple languages, accents, skin colors and ages. Including people and being “inclusive” is an attitude all seem to welcome and support. But how inclusive are we towards those with whom we disagree? How inclusive are we when it comes to those people who have different political leanings or who worship differently? How inclusive and welcoming can our church be with those who disagree, but still remain true to her teachings?
Being inclusive doesn’t mean letting go of one’s values and core beliefs, so as not to offend the other person. I think being inclusive means respecting the person with whom we are at odds…listening to them and trying to find common ground. HOW we express our divergent views and opinions is key to being inclusive in a way that doesn’t compromise our values, nor demean the humanity of the other.
The Pharisee in the parable of the two who went into the Temple to pray was clearly not being inclusive. Yes, he was righteous and observed the Law; he followed the traditions of his religion and he no doubt loved God. So far, so good. However, within that Temple, he SEPARATED himself from the tax collector, also praying at the same time and in the same worship space. But their hearts were far apart…
The Pharisee couldn’t see himself as a part of sinful humanity because his spirit was inflated with pride and hypocrisy. He EXCLUDED the tax collector because he couldn’t embrace this “sinner’s” humanity. The Pharisee was actually denying his own humanity by failing to see himself as INCLUDED in the truth that we ALL are sinful and need healing.
Two men went into the Temple to pray… only one left truly righteous and INCLUDED in the great sea of humanity. The Pharisee excluding himself from humanity, but he was nonetheless included in God’s love. Only God can be exclusively inclusive.