Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Inclusive Exclusive Clique of Christianity

Last week a brother of mine posted something on Facebook regarding Christianity and cliques.  We often like to jump on statements like that as a moment for self reflection and self criticism.  I took a different approach.  There are two ways really to look at a statement like that and that is within the church and outside the church.  Cliques within a church are wrong and lead to much division on the church as a whole.  That said, the body of Christ is a clique in that the fellowship we share is not something open to the world at large.  Today I want to address both aspects of the Christian clique. 

First I want to address cliques within the church.  There is clear Scripture regarding this matter.
But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where [would] the body [be]? But now indeed [there are] many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those [members] of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable [parts] have greater modesty, but our presentable [parts] have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that [part] which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but [that] the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with [it]; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with [it].  1 Corinthians 12:20-26 NKJV
We clearly see here that no part of the body of Christ is to be despised.  I know we all have our own personalities and that certain people may rub us the wrong way, but that should have no bearing on our fellowship with them.  If you prefer to not be around certain brothers or sisters in the Lord, what you are doing is putting yourself over Jesus and failing to crucify your flesh.  Think about it, God tells you that we are to all be one body.  If you think that someone is not fun to be around, then what are you saying to that other part of the body?  That person is good enough for eternal fellowship with Jesus, but not good enough for you?  Or even worse are you telling God that He made a mistake?  I am not talking about people who are caught up in sin, I am talking about those people who do nothing wrong, but are just annoying to us.  Being annoyed is a matter of that very same flesh we are called to crucify.  Each of us needs to have the same concern for everyone else in the body of Christ.  If one of us suffers, we all suffer.  In fact, it is our love for one another that stands as a testament to the world as to the reality of Jesus Christ. 

The other way to look at Christian cliques is how we associate with the rest of the world.  Again, the Bible is clear about this.
Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will dwell in them And walk among [them]. I will be their God, And they shall be My people."  Therefore "Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the LORD Almighty." 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 NKJV
Many, including myself, have used this passage in regard to dating.  Dating is merely one application of this general principle.  As Christians, we have no fellowship with the world.  I am not saying we do not love the people of the world in that we want them to come to Jesus, but they are not part of the body of Christ.  They have no place in Christian fellowship with us.  Personally, I hate those times when I go on a men's retreat or some Christian fellowship event like that and some men bring their unsaved friends.  Not that I do not desire for them to be saved, but that is not appropriate at all.  When we fellowship as the body of Christ, we need to be the body of Christ.  The fact of the matter is that the purpose of meeting as a church, even for church services, is not to reach those outside the body but to build up those in the body so that they can reach out to the unsaved world.  This is not to say that unbelievers should be unwelcome in our services and this is not to say that the Gospel should not be heard in our churches, but it is to say that churches meet to build up the body of Christ.  We are there to be trained to go out into the world and reach others for Christ.  It is the lazy, do-nothing church that sits back and hopes unbelievers find there way inside.  What I am saying by all of this is that we are a clique.  The body of Christ is an exclusive group to the body of Christ.  We are redeemed.  We are the bride of Christ.  We are filled with the Holy Spirit.  We are citizens of Heaven.  We are joined by the blood of Jesus.  We are the body of Christ.  No one else can lay claim to any of those except us.  We are a brotherhood bound by the blood and sacrifice of Jesus Christ and that bond is eternal.  Anyone is welcome into this clique but not without first accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. 

So, in terms of cliques, it is right to say that the church is a clique.  It is a clique that includes only those who have accepted the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ and It is a clique that includes all who accept the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.  Anyone can meet the qualifications by accepting Jesus, but only those who meet that qualification can join.  It is a clique that welcomes visitors and wants nothing more than for all to accept Jesus and be a part of our family, but it is a clique that only accepts those who accept Jesus to be part of our family.  And for those of us in that family of God, we must act like it.  We must not form cliques within our clique to the exclusion of other believers.  I know there are times when sadly we must put away members of our families for a time, but I am not talking about those situations.  We must love one another in word and in deed.  We must lift each other up.  We must support each other in our times of need.  We are all part of one body so allowing others to hurt is only hurting ourselves. 
And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.  Acts 2:42-47 NKJV

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