So often I find myself saying ‘that is not really my kind of thing’ or ‘that is not my calling’. I create for myself a role within the body of Christ which suits me, something that is perhaps not within my comfort zone as we all know that is bad, but is within range of my comfort zone so that I don’t have to stretch too far.
I was challenged on this recently. I moved into a new house at the end of December (awkward timing to say the least). I had waited for a long time to find a place like it, where we could use it as a gift, with which we could create community, somewhere where we could sincerely have an effect on those who live around us.
Last Saturday we had a party, we flyer dropped every house on our street and invited them to a drop in tea and cake party. It was very successful, we had representatives of 15 houses come and some very positive feedback. We intend to do this kind of thing about once every 4-6 weeks and over the next year create real relationships where we are able to serve our community effectively and as it needs.
I tweeted about my joy at the success of this party and someone came back to me and said it wasn’t really his sort of thing. I was struck by this, as loving our neighbours is surely what we are called to do, but then I started to think about all the times that I have thought that exact same thing. I don’t do certain things still, because it is not my kind of mission.
Yesterday I was at an evangelical alliance event at which ‘Home for Good’ was launched, a campaign to raise awareness in churches for the need for foster and adoptive families. I had this very conversation with someone there. Do we, within the idea of inclusion, love, and neighbourly kindness have a ‘calling’?
I ask this as a sincere question. I am uncomfortable within certain groups of people, I would say that my calling is perhaps to a certain ‘type’ of person, but I do not see quite how this can be right. Jesus went to those who most desperately needed his help and that ranged from teachers, Roman soldiers, lepers, prostitutes etc, there appears to be no ‘type’.
I agree that we are not all necessarily called to live on an estate or to mentor youth, but where we do live, do we not have a responsibility to share the love of Christ with our neighbours in action? This will not always look the same, and I am in no way suggesting that everyone start throwing tea and cake parties for their neighbours. I do wonder though whether it might be worth us all taking another look at what is ‘not my kind of thing’.
The event yesterday challenged me on this further due to the revelations of the struggle that many foster families have in church. It reminded me very strongly of the struggles I hear of from families of children with disabilities or autism. Where church will often support in theory, but in practise struggle to maintain that support through violent fits of anger, excessive swearing, and begin to question the foster parents parenting techniques rather than recognising an even greater need for support than previously anticipated.
How do we be genuinely good, loving neighbours even in the areas that are not what we feel quite comfortable with? And how do we maintain boundaries on what we will and will not participate in without becoming exclusive in our method of being inclusive?