If, as a child, you’ve ever been excluded from a playground group or a classroom clique, you understand the sting of rejection. It can injure the heart for years to come, and if, as an adult, further issues arise within social settings and friendships, a wounded heart can hinder your spiritual growth and negatively influence your effectiveness as a Christian.
When we do well at something, we tend to attract others with similar skills and abilities. As a kid, I played jacks well and mastered double Dutch jump rope on the playground. I was welcomed into those play circles and enjoyed the friends and fun. I was assured of instant social acceptance as soon as recess began. Other kids who couldn’t do double Dutch or fumbled at jacks, were excluded and resorted to playing tag or nothing at all. I’m ashamed to admit that my double Dutch circle of friends hardly interacted with the tag circle. We were double Dutch snobs, I guess.
Cliques aren’t just found on playgrounds and classrooms. Sadly, there are religious circles and cliques in the Church, and if you’re not spiritual or holy enough to belong to such Deeper Life Clubs, the outside-looking-in stigma creeps over the soul and brings pain and rejection.
What constitutes a Deeper Life Club, and who belongs to them? Certainly, not all groups within a church are exclusive, but when an air of superiority can be detected, we should think twice about joining. Churches may include groups for moms or single moms, Bible Studies, singles, widows or widowers, youth, leadership, worship team, men or women, finance, etc. One hallmark of a Deeper Life Club is an “us-four-and-no-more” attitude—a reluctance to accept new or different people. Our intelligence and skill are not what motivated Christ to die for us. His unconditional agape love did. We are to pattern our lives after Him, and He was not an “us-four-and-no-more” Savior.
Philippians 2:5-8 in The Message version of the Bible spells out what our attitude should be, lest any of us—leaders or followers—form an unapproachable Deeper Life Club. Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death — and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion.
Sometimes super-spiritual people in a church or a specialized group like a worship team have gifts and abilities that others are intimidated by. Leadership often excludes itself from people to counsel together as they govern the church. Before judging that as an “us-four-and-no-more” exclusive Deeper Life Club, consider Hebrews 13:17 (Amplified Bible), obey your [spiritual] leaders and submit to them [recognizing their authority over you], for they are keeping watch over your souls and continually guarding your spiritual welfare as those who will give an account [of their stewardship of you]. Let them do this with joy and not with grief and groans, for this would be of no benefit to you.
Keeping a pure heart toward others is paramount to keeping a Christ-like attitude and testimony. Paul gives us a helpful reminder in Romans 12:3 (NLT), I give each of you this warning: Don't think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. It’s good to check ourselves from time to time, making sure we do not have a superior, condescending attitude toward anyone. Jesus didn’t. He was the Son of God, but He refused to join the Deeper Life Clubs of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Their religious spirit was odious to Him. Deeper Life Clubs tend to encourage us to think more about ourselves and those in our specialty group than others.
Cancel your membership if you belong to any. Instead, adopt the “us-four-and-many-more” attitude of Jesus. It’s a much better approach to socializing, whether in your church, family, school, or workplace.
© 2021, Chris Werre