Our oldest daughter, Abbie, spent one year in pre-school before moving on to Kindergarten. Her preschool was not a typical preschool experience. Our school district has a county wide school for children with special needs. It’s a school where my wife, Andrea, taught for about 9 years. This is the school that Abbie went to preschool at. She was one of a handful of typical students integrated with more students with special needs at a varying degree of severity. This year of preschool was a year long glimpse of the Kingdom of God. Children of all colors, cognitive and physical abilities formed a community and a bond with one another. I remember standing with some of the parents of children with special needs and one remark how beautiful the class was because it may be the last time that their child was integrated with “typical children” and given a high level of acceptance.
Jesus was present in that class. That year, I saw so many examples of love, grace, acceptance, and forgiveness that came through the children learning to live together in community. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, writing on community says this:
“The exclusion of the weak and insignificant, the seemingly useless people, from a Christian community may actually mean the exclusion of Christ; in the poor brother Christ is knocking at the door. We must, therefore, be very careful at this point” (Life Together, 38)
When we look around at our churches and our faith communities- have we made room for the poor and the homeless? Have we made room for those of bad reputations? Do we look at the margins of our community and invite those very people into our communities? Our social circles? Our families?
If we do not, we may actually be excluding Jesus from our church, our communities, and our families. As Jesus reminds us in Matthew 25:45, “Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did no do for me.”