Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Serpents and Doves

4:19 p.m. Today's project was to help a sister cope with a feeling of exclusion, or a suspicion of such.

Many situations can cause the feeling of exclusion, from gatherings of friends and family to business settings, even in ministries. Exclusion is ungodly, unkind, and unloving; in a business setting it's unprofessional!

Ungodly? Yes indeed, because as I John 4:8 puts it,

He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

Exclusion can take many forms--"forgetting" to invite a person to a meeting; or having "the meeting before the meeting," an experience I had during my political years on the local school board when I innocently came to a meeting at the appointed time, and found other participants had been discussing school district business already. "No, no, we were just chatting..."  You'd better believe I was the first one in the meeting room after that! Jesus said in Matthew 10:16, "be as wise as serpents and harmless and doves." That verse became my watchword. Believers are not to be hapless dummies!

The problems that arise from unfairness in a professional setting are legion: the loss of trust in a valuable member of the team who no longer offers good ideas that can help solve problems; as for public agencies, legal action can even be taken when the majority of an elected board tries to meet secretly! I chose to take it to the Lord, and allow Him to build the voter support of believers and unbelievers alike that allowed me to win 3 consecutive elections before I declined to run for a 4th term because other ministries were calling.

Broad public support is pretty attention-getting to fellow politicians, so the board worked together much better by my 2nd term!

When a man's ways please the LORD, Proverbs 16:7 says, He makes even his enemies be at peace with him.

Christian, just make sure your ways please the Lord!

What about a work situation, where this sister found out that an entire fun experience had been planned for all the grade level's students--except for hers! When the question of exclusion was presented, excuses flew out: "it was another person's doing," "we didn't mean.." etc. Finally an olive branch was offered, that the students of the excluded classroom could join in after all. But why exclude or pass over a member of the team in the fist place? Thinking they wouldn't notice? I commented that there seemed to be a peaceful solution at least. But the excluded one stated, "I still don't trust them."  Again, I counseled from the scriptures:

Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.

The trickiest kind of exclusion can happen in the family, where several members live near one another, or are closer in age, and lack the good sense and common decency to include one who may have a different hometown, experiences or outlook. How hard is it to talk about subjects we all have in common, such as our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews? Or listen to each of our activities, goals and plans--and be sincerely happy for everyone's good news?  For believers, Jesus' work in our lives is a never ending source of joyful talk if you run out of topics! Ephesians 5:20-21 says that we should be

giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of the Lord.

Will you be spending lots of time or confiding deeply in any and every family member? Probably not. Again,

Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.

Friend exclusion hurts very deeply, because friends are friends by mutual choice! Mothers of elementary age daughters have plenty of experience dealing with this one. These days, exclusion has escalated to internet bullying at secondary and even adult levels. Some famous mass killings have even been traced to this sadness of being left out, excluded and demeaned. Adults however, can also be crushed to discover that they've been cut out of a fun outing by their friends. I know I have been! That's when we forgive and live by I Corinthians 7:15, "God has called us to peace."

These feelings of loneliness and despair are not new! My morning reading in Psalm 88, "the suffering of affliction," NLT, includes the following passages where Heman the Ezrahite addresses his sorrows and complaints to God quite bluntly:

You have driven my friends away
  by making me repulsive to them,
I am in a trap with no escape. (v.8)

Your fierce anger has
   overwhelmed me.
Your terrors have paralyzed me.
They swirl around me like floodwaters
   all day long.
They have engulfed me completely.
You have taken away my companions
  and love ones.
Darkness is my closest friend. (v. 16-18)

That's real despair, blamed on God, but we know that even though God allows solitariness for a season, it is for our own growth in knowledge of Him, without the distractions of desultory or frivolous conversation. In a ministry, God wants to use alone time to develop excellence in character, work ethics, or in hearing the Lord's voice in scripture and being trained in using those scriptures for the edification of others.  In a business or public service setting, the Lord will use that focus on Him alone to cause a believer to stand above the mediocre crowd, with results of their efforts evident to all, and at a level only God could cause them to achieve!

In I Timothy 4: 12-14, the Apostle Paul advises young pastor Timothy not to neglect his spiritual gifts, and to read the scriptures, be an example to others, exhort them, and as practice what we woule say today, focus! In verse 15, we are all exhorted to gain and act in wisdom for a very important reason:

Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all.

Be wise, be harmless, and you will emerge from the dark season into God's glorious light!

1 comment:

  1. Excellent points here, Dana. Christ was often rejected and He knows our hurts from business associates, friends and family. Great that you could minister to your friend today.

    I think sometimes because our husbands have Alzheimer's we and they get excluded because people don't want to deal with the reality that we live. At least we need their prayers and that means so much.

    Hugs and prayers,
    Who had car trouble today like you recently had