A net for all
Genesis 21: 8-21 (NRSVA)
8 The child grew, and was weaned; and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. 9 But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. 10 So she said to Abraham, ‘Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.’ 11 The matter was very distressing to Abraham on account of his son. 12 But God said to Abraham, ‘Do not be distressed because of the boy and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named after you. 13 As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also, because he is your offspring.’ 14 So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba.
15 When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes. 16 Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, ‘Do not let me look on the death of the child.’ And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. 17 And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, ‘What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. 18 Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.’ 19 Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. She went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the boy a drink.
20 God was with the boy, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow. 21 He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother got a wife for him from the land of Egypt.
You’ve been excluded.
It’s that awful, ‘no-one-wants-to-choose-me’ kind of feeling you feared throughout high school. As you stroll to the side of the pitch, you start to question your worth: “Why me? Will I ever get to play?”
For many, this trend of exclusion goes deep into adulthood and sometimes lead to institutionalised discrimination. As self-absorbed humans we tend to push others aside. Especially if their collapse could benefit us.
In Melinda Gates’ book, ‘The moment of lift’, she addresses this natural predisposition to discount others with the following paragraph:
“Overcoming the need to create outsiders is our greatest challenge as human beings. We tend to push out the people who have qualities we’re most afraid we will find in ourselves. So, saving ourselves and others starts by bringing everyone in. It’s, however, not enough to help outsiders fight their way in — the real triumph will come when we no longer push anyone out."
That’s Gospel language.
It’s the Good News of Jesus that not only includes everyone, but never excludes a single person.
Was it really God’s will that Hagar and Ismael be banished into the wilderness to die of hunger and thirst? Is God capable of such a thing? A loving, compassionate, slow to anger Father? Why would He instruct this? Abraham excludes whilst God always yearns for his kin to be brought back to Him (included).
When we want to see the 4k picture of God, we need to focus on Jesus. The full embodiment and revelation of God. Who always, on every occasion, at any cost included the lame, the leper, the liar.
Those on the margins.
Those we tend to push away.
No one was ever too sinful or sinister to be fully accepted and included into Jesus’ household.
May we always be guilty of being too open and inclusive in the name of Love.
Help me to become like you:
Rid me of my desire to exclude others.