One day, long ago, a Jewish Christian pastor in Jerusalem heard some disconcerting news. Christianity was a new way of being a person of faith, and some churches were struggling with what being a follower meant, both in beliefs and in practice. James wrote a letter to the church and informed them their conduct was antithetical to the teachings of Jesus. Their doctrine was not the problem, it was their preferential treatment of people.
In a wonderful new children’s book, The Big Wide Welcome (The Good Book Publishing), Trillia Newbell tells the story of James and the church that learned to love all people. Having favorite foods, toys, and colors is fine. Playing favorites with people is absolutely not. In James’ case, the church was treating poor congregants as less important than wealthy ones. Showing favoritism towards one group over another is a troublesome human instinct, deeply embedded within us. But it is not acceptable in the kingdom of God and we must unlearn that way of living. Favoritism based on race, social status, language, and intellectual ability has always plagued the church, but we can overcome it when the gospel is taken seriously. The concept of inclusion is inherent in the teachings of Jesus. When inclusion is embraced, the church is in sync with the heart of God. When the church excludes or shows preferential treatment, it does so in violation of the gospel.
One of the things I love about The Big Wide Welcome is that Newbell does not present inclusion as a drudgery as if accepting others without prejudice is a distasteful burden. When we treat others who are different as Jesus would, inclusion and equality become a catalyst for joy. The church of Jesus is enhanced, not diminished, by diversity. The Big Wide Welcome is a celebration of the good news that all people are valued and loved by God, and we should, therefore, value and love one another.
-Darrel Holcombe, Owner
Sanctuary Christian Books and Gifts
Colonial Promenade, Alabaster