Weekly message from Cypress Church: The inclusivity of neighboring

Romans 12:15-18 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

I grew up in a home where if something was different it was not necessarily wrong or bad, it was just different. Being my dad was university professor, we often had people from other ethnicities in our home. They would bring strange and interesting foods, and being immigrants ourselves (we were from Canada) we saw the adventure in something new. It was not always tasty or enjoyable, but we were taught to be gracious and do our best to try it with a smile. It’s natural to want others to like what we like. We actually feel included and affirmed when someone enjoys what we enjoy. The opposite is also true. When we make fun of or detest what someone else likes, they can feel excluded and less.

I was out to eat in San Francisco’s China town. The restaurant was off the beaten path and seemed mostly to be frequented by locals. We had heard about it that it was the best Chinese food at the best price in all of the San Francisco Bay Area. Our little family grew up going to this restaurant. The servers loved teaching our kids to use chopsticks and were more than willing to dig up a spoon from the back to help out. On one occasion, a family was a guest of someone who seemed to be a regular at the restaurant. This family was a bit loud with their kids saying; “What stinks?” “Mommy that person is eating something smelly.” “That fish still has the head on it.” I was glad they did not see when the fish’s eyes were eaten! When their food came out, one of the adults blurted out, holding up his chopsticks, “What am I supposed to do with these? Doesn’t this place have some proper utensils?” I was mortified. The servers were gracious, but you could tell they were a bit offended and felt less. I caught eyes with one who had gone back to find a fork and spoon and mouthed the words, ‘I’m sorry.” I guess I did not want to be included in the same camp as this unpleasant guest.

We live in a world with a lot of differences and depending on where you live, your neighbors are most likely from a variety of cultural backgrounds. On our block, we have people from all over the world: East, West, North, and South. Yet, even in diversity, we are called by God to love our neighbors. We are called to the inclusivity of neighboring. This inclusivity requires that we move out of our postures of power and our silos of sameness and take on the adventure of inclusion.

Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Romans 15:7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
Hebrews 12:14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

I wonder how many times I have offended or excluded someone by being judgmental of his or her differences. Now sure, there are issues and habits that are morally wrong according to God’s standards. Yet there is much that is not, and maybe we could be a bit more open to differences. Just because something is different does not mean it’s wrong, it’s just different. If we want to love our neighbors like Jesus said (Matthew 22:34-40), we need to practice the inclusivity of neighboring. Let’s be excited at people’s uniqueness. Try new foods. Learn a bit of a new language. Be interested in someone else’s life story and culture. Who knows? You may even enjoy it or learn to enjoy it.

Church can be a great place to learn about God’s desire for us to be inclusive. If you don’t have a church you regularly attend, we would like to invite you to Cypress Church or one of our branch churches. We have just started a new teaching series called “A Beautiful Church in the Neighborhood.” We will be walking though Jesus’ teaching of the Good Samaritan and how we might be that good neighbor to others. Our website has more information http://www.cypresschurch.net. You can even attend one of our live-streaming services (see http://live.cypresschurch.net/). We would love for you to join our culturally diverse church.