No one enjoys being left out! The sting of not being invited to a party, the rejection of not being asked to help plan the next women's event at church, the hurt of realizing the person you hoped would be your best friend chose someone else to vacation with. Being excluded hurts.
But we follow a Savior who was decisively exclusive on several occasions:
- Jesus chose twelve disciples from the larger group. There were many He didn't choose to invite into that circle (Matt. 4:18–22, Luke 6:13–16).
- On many occasions, He invited the same three from the twelve to join Him for special occasions. Here we see not just an inner circle, but an inner-inner circle (Matt. 17:1–9, Mark 14:32–35, Luke 8:49–51).
- 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).
How can this be good? Purposely leaving someone out is usually seen as wrong, something we should avoid at all costs. Isn't the Church the place where all people should feel included all the time?
But Jesus forces us to create a new category: Exclusion cannot always be bad. He is without sin and is the embodiment of love, going as far as the cross for unworthy sinners, and yet still leaves certain people out. Though we can't know all of God's purposes in exclusion, one benefit it carries is what it exposes.
Exclusion Exposes Pride
The desire to be included is usually a desire to be honored. Like the kids picked first for the kickball team, being chosen for any group is a position of honor. No one wants to be last on the team, or worst of all, not picked at all. We all want the places of honor; 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.
Being left out will always be a litmus test for pride.
As soon as you realize you didn't get the invite or weren't the one picked for a certain group, 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). Being entitled means believing 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 for sinner like ourselves! We live under grace, and that changes the game.)
When being left out exposes our longing to be recognized and honored, we have the opportunity to repent and walk in humility. We are given the chance to take up the attitude of a servant, as was Jesus's prescription for His disciples to free them from honor-chasing.
The moment you are excluded is a great opportunity for growth!
An Occasion for Faith
But there is a second response to exclusion that is rarely seen. And like most rare things, it is beautiful.
In Matthew 15, a Canaanite woman comes to Jesus for help with her demon-possessed daughter. And three times, Jesus tells her "no."
- "He did not answer her a word" (v. 23).
- "He answered, 'I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel'" (v. 24).
- "And he answered, 'It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs'" (v. 26).
Jesus calls her a dog and says 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" (v. 27). To Jesus' 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 no pride, no entitlement. 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 (v. 28).
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!
Is that not enough? Will you be as those invited to the wedding banquet by the King Himself and say "no thanks" (Matt. 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 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.