Left Out: The Benefits of Exclusion

Exclusion is a part of life. It is unavoidable. Not only that, it is good.

Isn’t it good that the whole school doesn’t get to have a say in your child’s education? That the whole church isn’t governed by the whim of the congregation each week but by a group of trusted elders? That only those who are trained doctors can make decisions about your healthcare?

Exclusion is a good thing. It is a protection.

But to many, exclusion is a great evil. The LGBT movement sees exclusion as evil. How can we exclude individuals from the benefits of marriage simply because they are of the same gender? Many hate Christianity because it is exclusive: “Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the light. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’” (John 14:6) How could it be possible that God could exclude some from heaven simply because they don’t believe in Jesus? If God is good, how could He ever be exclusive, so goes the reasoning.

It can be easy for us, as followers of Jesus, to absorb this attitude and apply it to our own contexts of church and ministry. Being left out is usually seen as a great evil, one in which we should avoid at all costs. Isn’t the Church the place where all feel included all the time?

No. I don’t think it’s that black and white. Jesus Himself makes this a troublesome issue for us by being decisively exclusive on several occasions:

  • Jesus chose 12 disciples from the larger group. There were many He didn’t choose to invite into that circle. “He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles.” (Matt 4:18-22, Luke 6:13-16)
  • On many occasions, He invited the same 3 from the twelve to join Him for special occasions. Here we see not just an inner circle, but an inner circle within the circle. (Matt 17:1-9, Mark 14:32-35, Luke 8:49-51)
  • He told others that He didn’t come for them. To the Canaanite woman He said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matt 15:22-28)
  • He upset seemingly good inner circles, like blood family. He denied the request of His own family, using it as an opportunity to say His real family are those who do the will of God. (Mark 3:31-35)

Knowing Jesus is without sin and is the embodiment of love, going as far as the cross for unworthy sinners, forces us to create a new category: exclusion motivated by love. Though we can’t know all of God’s purposes in exclusion, one benefit it carries is what it exposes.

EXCLUSION EXPOSES PRIDE
Being left out will always be a litmus test for pride. As soon as you realize you didn’t get the invite, you aren’t in the inner circle, or you are on the outside, one of two responses happen.

The first is the most common: hurt, disappointment, and/or anger. Under those surface feelings are deep roots of entitlement (a.k.a. pride). A feeling that you deserve to be included or that you have merited inclusion. Or that you are owed the opportunity to be included, assuming that it’s the fair thing to do.  But our God isn’t fair, mercifully so (read more about that here). We live under grace and that changes the game.

To boil it down, being included is about being honored. Like the kids picked first for the kickball team, being chosen for any group is position of honor. No one wants to be last on the team, or worst of all, not picked at all. We want the places of honor.

Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, saying, “Do not do according to the scribes and Pharisees. They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” -Matthew 23:1,6-8, 11-12

Like the Pharisees, we love to be honored. We love to be made much of. And being left out takes a stab at that. It reminds us that someone else has been chosen, someone else has been honored. The moment you are excluded is a great opportunity for growth! When our longing to be recognized and honored is exposed we have the opportunity to repent and walk in humility. “A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” (Psalm 51:17) We are given the chance to take up the attitude of a servant, as was Jesus’s prescription for His disciples in place of honor-chasing.

AN OPPORTUNITY FOR FAITH
But there is a second response to exclusion that is rarely seen. And like most rare things, it is beautiful.

And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying,”Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly. –Matthew 15:22-28

This woman comes to Jesus with a demon-possessed daughter and begs for her healing.  Three times Jesus says no, I did not come to help you.

  1. But he did not answer her a word.
  2. He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
  3. And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”

Jesus calls her a dog and says He will not help her because He was not sent for her but for the Jews. Jesus excludes her from His benefits because she isn’t from the right group.

And to this she said: “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” To Jesus’s exclusive statements she said “Yes, Lord.” She agreed with His decision and submitted to it, calling Him Lord. If you aren’t shocked by her response, you should be.

This is a woman with little to no pride. She doesn’t feel it is owed to her to be included. Yet… yet she called upon the mercy of Jesus, hoping He might share just the crumbs left over from those privileged Jews with little old her, the unimportant, sinful, unnamed Canaanite woman she was.

And there it is: great faith.

“Then Jesus answered her, ‘O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.’ And her daughter was healed instantly.”

Let exclusion expose your pride and activate great faith. Let it remind you that you are entitled to nothing more than hell and have been graced with every blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. (Rom 3:23, 6:23, Eph 1:3)

YOU ARE ALREADY INCLUDED
If you are in Christ, then you have already been included in the most important, most undeserved, and highest ranking of all inner circles in existence: the family of God! You have been chosen by God, handpicked by Him, and purchased with the precious blood of Jesus so that you could be called SON or DAUGHTER! What a rich honor that is. You have full access to the throne room of God, you have His ear. He is the most important and highest ranking person in the universe!

parable textIs that not enough? Will you be as those invited to the wedding banquet by the King Himself and say no thanks? (Matthew 22:1-14) Is a place of honor amongst your peers so important that when excluded from a mere human establishment that you are upset and feel devalued? God has invited you! The King of Heaven has offered you a seat at His table, a place in His family.

Let us learn from the Canaanite woman. When we are excluded may we remember we did not deserve to be included. When we are not honored as we thought was appropriate, may we remember that we have not earned honor but wrath. Let us not despise (or treat lightly) the family of God by giving greater value to human inner circles. Is it not enough? Is it not enough to be His child?

Oh that it might be enough today for those of us who call Him Father. That we would be content to be His and content to serve Him and our spiritual family in whatever small and menial way He allows us the privilege of doing. For the greatest in His Kingdom will be servant and slave to all.

8 Comments

  1. Homeskillet

    Luke 6:35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.

    I never wanted to be the greatest among you, I just wanted to serve… you sent me away in tears…

    Mark 12:31 The second is this “love your neighbor as yourself,” There is no commandment greater than these.

    I could have sworn that said to hate your neighbor….

    Deuteronomy 10:12-19

    12 And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good? 14 To the LORD your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it. 15 Yet the LORD set his affection on your ancestors and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations—as it is today. 16 Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. 17 For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. 18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. 19 And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.

    What, this God of yours shows no partiality?! I just cannot bear hanging around people with stiff necks. Choose you this day whom you will serve. Does that ring a bell to anyone? The truth of the gospel will divide. You do not decide who is and who is not a part of the kingdom of God. I will be happy to serve others outside of the church. I meet more kind and respectful people out in the world. I have had friends who are Satanists, Wiccans, Lesbians, Muslims, you name it. Please say a prayer to help me become more arrogant, hateful, and bigoted. I know it is what God wants me to be.

  2. Chris

    It is for God and not man to divide the wheat from the chaff. How can the fallen saved by grace become the righteous judge? How many does the church push away because they are different? If this is the direction the church must go in then put a sign on the front door saying what you do not want to enter. It would save a lot of suffering in the end. I think it should read like this: To all who fit this description you do not belong here: Blacks or any race deemed not worthy, gays, lesbians, transgendered or the people who support them, Liberals of any kind do not belong, the mentally ill do not belong in the church, the homeless do not belong in the church, anyone with an iq above 30 does not belong in the church, anyone who believes in gun control does not belong in the church, the unmarried do not belong in the church, those who cannot become a good hypocrite and liar do not belong in the church. You create for yourself a social club and call those who are not welcome prideful. To place yourself above others is prideful. You are absolutely right that I do not belong in any Baptist Church. I am a man who is both mentally ill and I am gay as well. I am a follower of Christ as well. I am not prideful enough to call myself a Christian. I just cannot hate myself enough to be a true Christian. I pray that God helps me to hate the niggers, queers, liberals, and others who dare to try and find God’s love. I wanted to help others and had much to give. I like to make others feel welcome. I like to treat others with respect. If you just tell the people who are not welcome to fuck off, it would make things so much better. Why lie and pussy foot around this issue? I know what the deal is, you serve the father of lies…. I believe that is Jesus Christ….. hold on a second….. 🙂

  3. When I read this, I kept interrupting myself saying “Whaaaat?!” This is so true and so great! I really needed to read this… Thank you for not being silent, thank you for speaking up even the hardest biblical truths. Be blessed, Kelly!!

  4. Pista

    Interesting thoughts on exclusion. Thanks! Would it also apply to the stance conservative catholic cardinals take on the divorced-remarried couples? i.e. keeping those couples away from communion.

  5. Chelsea

    Thank you for writing this. I have been wrestling with my desire to be thought well-of and be noticed (being included is certainly a part of that). It’s a deep-seated desire that has followed me from childhood…and it’s caused me so much misery. As sin does eventually…it always bring misery. And in my desire to be well thought of, pride is absolutely at the root. God is so gracious in allowing me to see my sin for what it is and to keep bringing me back to Himself.

  6. Gina

    Good one, Kelly!!

  7. Anonymous

    Good one, Kelly!

  8. Monique Davis

    Wow, this is powerful! I am in awe! I thank you, once again, for allowing God to so perfectly use you to speak directly to my heart. I needed this more than I realized so thank you Kelly!

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