Monday, April 29, 2013

Rejected by Church but Accepted by God

Loving our neighbor is more important than offerings and sacrifices (Mark 12:33), and love is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:10). So love needs to be practiced in the Christian church. Sadly, rejection is also practiced in churches. Here are some instances.

A church I was aware of disqualified many of her members from public reading of the Scripture (from the pulpit) because of their alleged inadequacies in pronunciation, punctuation, voice modulation etc. Ironically, the ‘experts’ were imperfect in reading as well!

When members fellowship after the worship service, we find people standing isolated without anyone to talk to. This reality is due to the existence of likeminded groups. Time is limited but topics are unlimited, so likeminded groups are busy managing their topics on time. The isolated person stands alone and rejected.

Pastors ought to lead by example, but they too reject their own members – ignorantly or intentionally. If a pastor is busy engaging a member of his choice, he denies the request of another desiring to talk to him. I was denied handshakes, since the pastor was preoccupied with his own agenda.

I was once depressed at work, so I desired prayer from an after-service intercessor. Citing the hot and humid evening, the intercessor scampered to the comforts of the home instead of spending quality time interceding for my needs. The prayer ended hastily and added much disillusionment to my sorrow.

Some churches encourage competitions which demonstrate individuals’ Bible knowledge (e.g. recitations, quizzes etc.). The upside is the motivation that members receive to read the Bible; the downside is rejection. The winners are awarded with gifts, whereas losers feel the brunt of pain from failure.

Gossips, insults, cleverly veiled insinuations, public condemnations on account of sins committed, dump the person in contention into much pain. The pain is acute when the person has repented of his sin, yet suffers rejection by the church. Then there are those who are falsely accused as sinners. Some in the church no longer believe in “innocent until proven guilty,” but rather in “guilty until proven innocent.” They treat this member as a proven sinner and reject him wholeheartedly.

These are just some forms of rejections in a church. But here are some personal and biblical insights about rejection in the church.

In the case of Scripture reading, any member who can read adequately well and is confident of reading in public must be offered an opportunity to read. If a church disqualifies people from reading Scriptures on the basis of excellence, the same policy should determine all other aspects of worship - worship leader, intercessor, preacher etc. This would be an interesting complexity to resolve!

Corporate worship is community worship. As far as possible, distinction between ‘good’ and ‘not-so-good’ should be avoided. Perfection in our life is impossible, but for the perfect sacrifice of the Lord Jesus on the cross. ‘Graciousness’ is a viable alternate to excellence. Sloppy participation in worship services is to be discouraged along with elimination based on excellence.

Rejection (isolation) of members after the worship service defeats the purpose of worship. We decide to love our neighbor during the worship service. But immediately after, we reject our unknown neighbor by loving those who love us and whom we love. It is our intentional responsibility to accept and integrate everyone into the body of Christ.

With respect to competitions, exposure of one’s lack of biblical knowledge is not enriching especially when these activities do not reveal a doctrinal understanding of the Bible. Verse recitations are beneficial, but the church should find a way to encourage and motivate the losers. The church should bear in mind that the majority are losers (if 10 participate, there are 3 winners and 7 losers).

Rejection on account of sins committed is the most deplorable of all rejections. This verse summarizes Christ’s response to a sinner, “Let the one among you who has never sinned throw the first stone at her” (John 8:7, J.B Phillips).

The church is a congregation of sinners; hence grace should be practiced profusely. The temptation is to be super-righteous and condemn the sinner while conveniently ignoring the fact that all are sinners. When those with Christ behaved super-righteously, HE instilled truth by affirming every one as sinners with a need to repent (cf. Luke 13: 1-5). Even if a person is convicted of sin, the church should exhibit grace, love, mercy, and patience in engaging this child of God.

If a convicted sinner is to be treated with love and grace, should not the one merely suspected of a sin treated with the same love and grace?

Church may reject, but God accepts all men if they believe in HIM. Christ came to “preach the Gospel to the poor... to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord’ (Luke 4:18, J.B Phillips).

Christ left the ninety-nine sheep to rescue the one sheep that had wandered off (cf. Matthew 18: 12-14).1 If the Lord considered that one sheep too precious to lose, the church should also be gracious to all. Rejection opposes the gospel of the Lord Jesus.

Many deem it wise to sacrifice the one to save ninety-nine. In a controversial situation, an innocent is often the scapegoat. The world may justify this atrocity, but certainly not the church of Christ. The church should love and defend the lost and brokenhearted.

When asked who the greatest is in the Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus affirmed that the least is the greatest (cf. Matthew 18: 1-4). The one who is humble is the greatest in the Kingdom of God. Unless the church has a humble heart she cannot identify the rejected, even if he stands in front of her sight.

Think with me please. Christ hung out with the prostitute, leper, centurion, and the woman who had five husbands. Would these children of God be lovingly embraced by the local church today? Who is more recognized in the church – Mr. Insignificant Bloke or Mr. Prominent Righteous? The answer to the latter question will answer the former.

We desire healing through ‘signs and wonders,’ but ignore opportunities to heal the rejected, especially when he stares right into our face. May we not be those who seek signs from heaven by ignoring signs of our time (cf. Luke 11: 29-32). The Lord - greater than Jonah and Solomon – lived on earth, died for our sins, rose again from the dead to save and intercede for all, which includes the lost and brokenhearted. May we offer Christ’s love, comfort, and compassion to all those who need it desperately.

If the church rejects you, please know that God loves you. Amen.

Additional Note:
1 The lost sheep in this parable refers to a believer; the lost sheep in the gospel of Luke refers to an unbeliever (Luke 15:4-7). 


Malcolm Jackson said...

God made every living thing, Man made Religion to hedge people in and keep others out thus setting boundary's and these are the cause of all the problems we face today, even some churches teach falsely and cause separation in families and communities, I firmly believe in the two most important principles taught by Jesus Christ, Love the Lord your God with all your heart mind and strength and love your neighbor as you love yourself. We were born into this world Innocent and perfect but society, family and such have helped us create an EGO that is judgmental and therein lies the main problem of selection and rejection, if only we could remember what we reject is a creation of the Lord we would not be so hasty in our evaluations !!!!

Raj Richard said...

Beautifully said, Malcolm. Thank you for your thoughts.

Although we are born sinners, we have been redeemed by the one time perfect sacrifice of our Lord. In other words, we dont make ourselves perfect but we are made perfect by Christ.

Am unsure why our bro's and sis' forget this fact when they reject their own.

Implied in rejection is "I am perfect but you are not." Sad. Very sad.

Benjamin Durairaj said...

A church where God exists only in words and preachings and not in daily life and actions will never fulfill God's vision for that church. Now a days pastors tend to favor members who spend more for church stuff and neglect the average member who might not be able to provide as much financial support. But that member might be the one who prays day and night for the growth of the church. Such dedication will never go unnoticed by God who sees everything and He will reward every man according to his deeds....

there is nothing we can do to change the way people look at us but instead of tryin to impress them, we have to put that same effort to impress God coz that is all that matters...what He thinks abut you !!

Raj Richard said...

You have highlighted another failure of the church, Benji. Sad but true.

What you are saying is that we will impress God by obeying HIM. I agree with you. All we can do is to strive to be obedient to HIS commands - Love God and love man. Simple, yet complex. But by HIS grace, we will. God bless you, brother. :)

Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Sarah Bhuyan said...

Jesus was the biggest revolutionary the world has ever seen. He defied the 'laws of the day' when he hung out with those in the peripherals. He was called names by the super spiritual of the day.

I particularly,repeatedly, remember the moment when Jesus and the woman caught in adultery was alone when the accusers left one by one. Wow, what a moment !!
The woman and the Saviour - alone. When I feel rejection, I recall that moment. I replace that woman
with myself - me and my Saviour. What a contrast !!
Condemnation replaced by compassion and tenderness.
I bow down in worship - me and my Saviour alone.

Take heart, all who have gone through rejection.
Time does not heal, but our God heals and gives us
a heart of compassion and tenderness so that we can
be compassionate to others. Jesus Christ is the biggest Liberator.

Cheers guys !!Love you all,
Sarah Bhuyan

Raj Richard said...

Profound words, Sarah....thanks much...It's Christ to whom everyone can go w/out any that sacrifice and wow that love...amazing grace....AMEN....

Sarah Bhuyan said...

Thanks Raj.

I must clarify when I said that ' he defied the laws of the day' lest I may be mis-understood.

The law was given by God and is good. People misinterpreted it and Jesus gave the right inter- pretation of the law.
He did not abolish the law, but fulfilled it.

For eg. Jesus turned the understanding of the people upside down when He said that you have to take the lowest position for God to lift you up. In other words, the way up is the way down.
"If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her" was too radical in a self righteous world. Self examination and the discovery that the heart has sin was too uncomfortable. While he made people uncomfortable with their self righteous heart, he offered
healing to the rejected. Hence prostitutes and tax collectors went ahead of the pharisees and entered the kingdom of God. Kingdom was not shut to the pharisees.
God sees a possibility in every person.

Who understands rejection better than our Saviour himself !!!!

Raj Richard said...

Amen, Sarah. The righteousness that exceeds the pharisaical righteousness was given to us by God Himself. What a lovely God we serve. :)

Andrew Rodrigues said...

There's a bunch of coterie in the church I currently practise my faith, who never want to mix with people of other groups, and they are the 'prominent righteous' who steal the show during the service and after the service! May your article reach them and touch their hearts so they are not left far behind to reach the Kingdom of God. God bless you pastor for your thought-provoking article.

Raj Richard said...

Sad, isnt it, Andrew? Totally opposes the Lord's life while on more concerned about those of them who come and pay a lip service to many....acting...have seen quite a few.....anyhow, one day we shall all stand in front of the Lord....may we repent of our sins and be like HIM. God bless you much, Brother....

Sarah Bhuyan said...

I am wondering Andrew, are we not all responsible for having our little groups and stick to that group? I do not think that there is anything wrong in having a little group. But the problem is when we refuse to mingle with people of other language or nation.,

Some people will be visible by the nature of the work they are doing and some invisible for the same reason. God looks at the heart, our motives. Who is in the kingdom, is not based on visibility or invisibility or popularity.
Let God do the sorting out of the weed and the wheat.

Raj's blog is about how we reject people based on certain
parameters and the obvious contrast we see in how Jesus dealt with people.

We can change our attitude to people and pray that God will bring about change in others too. While all the time knowing that I am also part of the sinful world where I too make my share of mistakes through my insensitivities.

Take care Andrew and God bless.


Raj Richard said...

Sarah, Thank you for your thoughts.

I think this statement from Andrew echoes his position..."There's a bunch of coterie in the church I currently practise my faith, who never want to mix with people of other groups..."

You have also highlighted this disease in your response thru your statement, "But the problem is when we refuse to mingle with people of other language or nation..."

The disease will plague the church, unless there is a supernatural healing from above, which is received from below, and practiced diligently. :)

Sarah Bhuyan said...

Thanks Raj.

My intention was to include us in to this problem rather than standing far from the problem. Since all of us are fallen, we all have the traces of the same problem. We all
try to correct us and is not very easy. Hence , we are
together in the struggle.

Change is not easy. If I may quote Mark Twain, " the only one who likes change is a wet baby. " If I struggle to change myself, where is the possibility of me changing another. Hence we can depend on god who is changing each one of us.

While we groan when we struggle with our fallen nature, how can we retain our joy ? Only by focusing on God.

Thanks for reading,


Raj Richard said...

Sarah, I think the essence of the matter is "do we want to change?" To bring change, we should acknowledge our weakness / sin, else there wont be a change. Am I right?

Sarah Bhuyan said...

You are right Raj 100%.

I acknowldge my sin, not another persons. That happens when I want to change. Hence my primary focus is on self evaluation.