Includer - Tabitha
I can't think of a more needed theme this week than Includer. Our country is going through a difficult time. People are divided on just about everything. The word "Inclusion" is almost a bad word. Exclusion is the word of the day! We accept all these people...BUT these ones. We want all to be included...EXCEPT those with opposing views. THOSE people, we bash and make fun of.
People who are especially talented in the Includer theme are accepting of others. They show awareness of those who feel left out, and make an effort to include them.
Tabitha's story can be found in Acts 9:36-43. Tabitha (her name is Greek was Dorcas) is singled out in the Bible as a woman who was "full of good works and charitable deeds" (Acts 9:36).
She had a heart for the most vulnerable people in society- especially widows and orphans. In Biblical times, widows had no means of financial support or physical/legal protection. They were often very poor because of this.
Tabitha's life was marked with good deeds to this group of women and children. She made robes and clothing for the poor. She had a heart for those who were not included in the main stream society. Tabitha was very aware of the repercussions of living a life of poverty in Joppa, and she accepted the diversity in her city with open arms.
When Tabitha died, the people in her city mourned her deeply. Tabitha meant more to them than the being a maker of clothes. She was their friend, had relationships with them, spent time talking with them and meeting their spiritual and emotional needs- as well as physical needs.
Members of her church knew that Peter was close by and they immediately sent two men to fetch him, hoping for a miracle. Lyyda was 25 miles northwest of Jerusalem and a day's journey by foot from Joppa. It would be reasonable to think that Tabitha had been dead a total of 2-3 days before Peter arrived.
Peter came immediately. He found the widows grieving in the upper room with Tabitha's body (v. 40) The miracle happens quickly (See Peter as Activator.). He clears the upper room, gets down on his knees and prays. He turns to the body and says, "Tabitha, get up." And she does!
This miracle spread throughout the region and many people came to the faith because of it.
Jesus- The Ultimate Includer
Jesus was energized by including people into His kingdom! Jesus began His ministry in a religious and cultural environment where exclusion was common. Many people accepted Israel as "God's People"...but not the gentiles. Jesus thought otherwise. Gentiles were most definitely included in God's kingdom!
Jesus regularly were with Jesus. He made a point to hang out and eat with social and religious outcasts. He extended His love to all people!
"Many tax collectors and sinners" (Matthew 9:10) ate with Jesus. These people were exactly the sort whom the Pharisees would readily exclude from their presence. The very act of sharing a meal was, in Biblical times, a powerful statement of acceptance and inclusion.
Jesus even reached out to lepers! These were the most excluded people in history! Because of their contagious disease they were kept far away from other people. They were excluded from everything public, made to live on the outskirts of civilization. When any one even came close, they had to warn them by yelling, "Unclean! Unclean!"
I was struck by Jesus' first words on the cross, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." At THAT moment... WHILE He was in the process of being killed, He was offering compassion and Inclusion to them. He was praying for them! If that's not ULTIMATE, I don't know what is. Jesus came for them. He came for us. It's only by His Amazing Grace that we are included into His family!
After his resurrection, Jesus showed His apostles that He was still alive. His message to them was, once again, that of Inclusion. He wanted them to "be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Jesus wanted them to reach the world!
“In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.” (Acts 2:17-18)
Rock Your Strengths!