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Inclusion is Different from Diversity

Inclusion is Different from Diversity 

The redemptive work of Jesus Christ and the Bible’s teachings are the only means of achieving biblical diversity, equity, and inclusion.  -Valley Christian Schools, Biblical Unity Principles 

 

Last month’s Biblical Unity article described biblical diversity as God’s beautiful tapestry of humanity, not a random assortment of threads but a deliberate masterpiece crafted by God, the Creator. This article focuses on inclusion as a vital aspect of exploring diversity in our work, social, and faith communities and organizations, but they are different. The literature for Christian and secular organizational leadership states we should understand diversity and inclusion are not synonyms. Any discussion about one must be considered simultaneously with the other.

Why is inclusion important in a Christian school?

Inclusion and the antithesis, exclusion, are at the heart of our society’s most contested social issues. Whether it is part of the dynamics underlying differences between our Christian denominations, the racial tensions dividing our cities, opposing national political positions, or our culturally heated discourse on sexual identity or race differences, we need to handle the realities of inclusion and exclusion biblically.

Regarding inclusion, most Christians know Jesus’ instruction to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Still, they may not be aware that Mosaic Law has the same instructions for how to treat foreigners. The command to treat them as “native-born” would have shocked people in Moses’ day. Throughout the Bible, God shows inclusivity and expects His people to do the same. In the Old Testament period, when tribes and nations looked after their own, the law of Moses required that Israelites love both neighbors AND foreigners. In Leviticus 19:33-34, God declared we treat the poor and the defenseless with respect, and in Exodus, God said, “Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt” (Exodus 23:9). The principle here is clear: Honor the dignity and humanity of foreigners.

Most people can relate to feeling like an outsider at some point in their lives — whether it be due to their race, ethnicity, economic status, religion, nationality, gender, or other factors. For believers, this feeling can be an opportunity for solidarity with the displaced and marginalized — significantly when we recognize that we were once strangers to God’s kingdom. God welcomes us through the grace and mercy of Christ. In this way, the biblical commandment to welcome strangers becomes a powerful expression of our shared humanity and a reflection of the divine love that transcends all boundaries.

Inclusion is crucial to the Gospel. “We are the body of Christ, and each one of us is a part of it,” Paul writes the Corinthians (1 Cor 12:27). And as a part of the body, we have responsibilities — responsibilities to respect and encourage the other parts as we carry out the individual work God has called each of us to do (1 Corinthians 12: 12-14). The New Testament uses “foreigners” and “strangers” as metaphors for our condition before our faith in Jesus Christ. Before we believed, we were outside the covenant and considered foreigners or strangers in God’s kingdom (Ephesians 2:11–13). But because of our faith in Him, we are now part of God’s community — strangers now welcomed in. Jesus instructs us to show disciple-like behavior in including and treating “strangers” in Matthew 25:35, “I was a stranger, and you invited me in.”

One part of the mission of Valley Christian Schools (VCS) is to send students into the world as ambassadors of the gospel message and to prepare them to relate to people different than themselves. Learning to be inclusive is advantageous to fulfilling the Great Commission. It is integral to Valley Christian Schools’ Philosophy of Christian Education, Biblical Unity Principles:

·      Welcome all people of diverse origins. VCS represents a culturally diverse community of many nations, ethnicities, cultures, and languages.

·      Include all of God’s children to reveal His beauty, like an enriched tapestry of God’s children shows an enhanced and remarkable view of God’s beauty.   

·      The redemptive work of Jesus Christ and the Bible’s teachings are the only means of achieving biblical diversity, equity, and inclusion.

·      VCS strives to teach and model biblical unity in all instruction and activities.

·      God does not show partiality toward anyone. He created all people, fearfully and wonderfully, in His image, and everyone must treat others as worthy of human dignity, honor, and respect.

·      As image-bearers of God, we celebrate our distinctive characteristics of ethnicity, national culture, gender, tribes, and languages with God’s love for one another in unity for God’s glory.

·      The teachings of Jesus and the Bible set the standards for the VCS community regarding their attitudes and conduct toward all diverse persons within and outside our community.

What can we do to be more inclusive?

Let’s be honest: inclusion is an effort—it takes thought and practice. Start with asking yourself reflective questions:

·      Do you struggle to be generous towards people different from you or not part of your friendship group or family?

·      Is your attention often attracted to famous people rather than those who are alone or have problems?

Think about how you can be more open to connecting with others and follow Jesus’ example of radical inclusivity more closely.

Personal action steps for promoting inclusion

·      Consider your behavior

·      Small things matter

·      Notice who is omitted

·      Show interest in others by asking questions

·      Notice the use of language

·      Establish feedback loops to gain insights

·      Know how to acknowledge and consider new ideas

Practices for teachers and students to create an inclusive classroom:

·      Focus on how you might personally experience deep empathy

·      Build your social justice vocabulary around Biblical Unity Principles

·      Value stories and perspectives

·      Display your classroom values prominently

·      When welcoming new students, learn to say their name correctly

·      Build global competence

Prayer

Heavenly Father, remind us that we are part of one human family, Your family. Open our hearts and minds so that we see Your reflection in the face of every person on this earth. Please help us to forge bonds of compassion, dignity, and respect with every person. Guide us to fully grasp that differences never lessen a person’s need for love, friendship, inclusion, respect, and the opportunity to participate in Your kingdom on earth and in heaven.

For More Information

This article is the fifth in a series describing cultural values and biblical unity at Valley Christian Schools:

1.     What is Biblical Unity? [https://www.vcs.net/community/biblicalunity/news/~board/biblical-unity/post/what-is-biblical-unity]

2.     Embracing Biblical Justice in Our Lives and Communities [https://www.vcs.net/community/biblicalunity/news/~board/biblical-unity/post/embracing-biblical-justice-in-our-lives-and-communities]

3.     Equity and Equality: Exploring Biblical Perspectives and Contemporary Interpretations [https://www.vcs.net/community/biblicalunity/news/~board/biblical-unity/post/equity-and-equality-exploring-biblical-perspectives-and-contemporary-interpretations]

4.     Embracing God’s Design: The Imperative of Biblical Diversity [https://www.vcs.net/community/biblicalunity/news/~board/biblical-unity/post/embracing-gods-design-the-imperative-of-biblical-diversity]

Visit vcs.net/biblicalunity for additional information or contact Dr. Steven J. McGriff, Director of Biblical Unity, Valley Christian Schools.