Friendship groups happen in every situation. In school, in university, in socials, events, where-ever people congregate, there is usually a dominant or a number of distinct groups. How are these groups formed? Well there are a number of reasons, the main being a sense of commonality between a group of people. Everyone shares something in common, may it be a physical, personality, skill, or whatever kind of trait, characteristic or mindset it is.
There is nothing wrong with this in itself, but quite often, these groups can become 'cliques' or an 'in-group' or groups which set themselves apart from other people. The trail of devastation behind these groups are marginalised people who are left out and behind.
This is quite damaging in secular society, but this is so much more damaging in a Christian context. Cliques can often linger due to reasons such as ignorance, lack of awareness, purpose distancing, gossip, and other reasons.
Firstly, this mentality does not promote Christian ideals such as love, grace and acceptance. If we are meant to be ambassadors of Christ and examples of Christ in this world, having these cliques do not communicate the right message.
Secondly, cliques do opposite of our call to be disciple makers. If we are called to share the gospel and evangelise to the world, having groups which repel people is a paradox to our goals. Cliques do not allow us to be an 'inclusive' movement, but rather an 'exclusive' movement.
Thirdly, cliques and the damage it causes are usually silent and rarely evident. It is rarely something that is tackled or confronted. But its consequences are Kingdom-impacting.
Have a think about the groups or ministries you are in. Are they like cliques? Is there an in group and out group? Are people being hurt because of this? I know that many, if not every church and church group I have seen is impacted in some way by this. We as God's people need to send the right message to each other so that we can be 'wise in behaviour towards the outsiders' who want to become a Christ follower.
"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."
I know I'm not perfect, but I know I'm not what some people think I am
No matter, I will keep doing my best and running the race for Jesus' sake.
I was once a very judgemental person. I probably still am in some ways, but its been a journey of growing and learning through many happy and sad life experiences over many years that I have come to this shift in perspective and orientation in my thoughts.
I find that as a Christian, it can be easy to fall into this judgemental mindset, whether consciously or subconsciously, natural or trained, purposely or accidental. Here are some reasons that I can think of in regards to how we can become judgemental:
- When we make statements about specific people and issues based on subjective, perspective, unfounded or false evidence (on a whimp)
- When we make general and broad statements or stereotypes about people and issues without realising that general and individual are two different ball parks
- When we try to help people but do it in a way which condemns them and puts them down instead
- When we jump into issues and discussions without gaining the big picture perspective on the actual issue
- When we lose control mentally and our temper/anger/frustration takes over (and we usually say really stupid things about people that we regret later)
- When we are so focused on rebuking and admonishing that we forget the aspect of Christlike love and forgiveness
We are not in a position to judge and condemn anyone We are all sinners alike and fall short of the glory of God. I might be able to see the speck in my brother or sister's eye, but I know there is a log in my own! We are not taught to judge in a view to condemn but we are taught to love each other and spur each other on to do good works - to be Christlike. We are to love, to forgive, to encourage, to teach and to grow so that we can all finish the race and hear God say "well done, good and faithful servant".
Tonight while talking to some friends, the issue of stereotypes came up in my mind, and its something I've thought about on and off for a while...
Basically I think that a lot of us lump people into various 'stereotype' groups without letting them show their true selves (either in a serious or joking manner). In a sense, by doing this, we are subconsciously judging each other when we are probably not looking impartially or objectively at a person. We aren't really in a position to give judgement, especially unfounded judgement on people. Rather, we should be trying to find out one's true character and personality, and also encouraging and spurring each other on to be more Christlike. Unfounded judgement towards someone can destroy one's self esteem and be hurtful towards our brothers and sisters in Christ. Lets be positive, uplifting and encouraging, instead of negative, stubborn and critical in our actions towards others.
"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching."
Quite ironic that the movie titled "The Karate Kid" is about Kung Fu and has nothing to do with Karate... Biggest cop out of a otherwise decent movie.
By far my favourite quote of the movie and something that I hold true to in life is:
"Life will knock us down but we can choose whether or not to get back up."
What this means is that, whatever happens in life, the most important thing is how we respond to happenings in life. In a fight or spire, your opponent will have times where they will knock you over to the ground. The thing to worry about is not that you are on the ground, but what will you do next? This has parallels to life. There will always be times of joy, but also times of sadness, suffering and hardship. What makes someone who they are is not what kind of 'times' they are in, but moreso how they respond to life's situations as they come and go. This shows one's true character and heart.
This is just like humans and sin. Sin has knocked us all over. Satan is knocking us over as we speak. But God has given us the opportunity to get back up. Its our choice, and our response is the most important decision we make in this life. This response defines where our true heart lies, and where our eternal security is.
Its God telling us that our slate of sin is wiped clear. Its all God. We can do nothing to be forgiven.
But forgiveness demands a response. God wants us to respond by putting Him as Lord of our lives. Otherwise, does God's forgiveness really mean anything to you if you don't respond to this massive gesture from God?
Also, Jesus teaches us that because God has forgiven us, we must forgive others. He teaches this plainly, through parables and through the Lord's Prayer. Its not because other people are worth forgiving (they may, but that is not the point) but because God has set the example of love by forgiving us of all our sins against God - our creator and ultimate judge.
Satan may be wrecking havoc in our world still, but we know that through Jesus' death and ressurection, God's love reigns over Satan's sinfulness. God's plan reigns Satan's schemes. God's Kingdom reigns over Satan's demonic powers. We will have troubles in this world, we will do stupid things and stupid things will be done to us. But God is always at work.
Joseph's example in Genesis rings to bell. His brothers despised him and one day, they captured him and sold him as a slave. What an act of injustice! But God still works. Years later, Joseph was elevated to a high position in the Egyptian palace and manages to bump into his brothers, who were poor because of the famine. By nature and knowing what his brothers did to him, Joseph could have reacted badly and had the power to do anything to his brothers. But how does Joseph respond?
But Joseph said to them, "Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."