Summary: How Christians excludes others in our daily practices.
The Game of Exclusion
Scripture: Mark 9:38-40; Gal. 2:11-14
In Matthew the 26th and 27th chapters we see for the first time that Jesus was alone. When Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, all of His disciples deserted Him. This was the first time that He was alone, physically, since He started His ministry. Until this moment, He always had someone around Him, yet at this time all of His companions “jumped ship”. When they nailed Him to the cross and He was preparing to die for our sins, when He took on our sins, He cried out “My God, My God why have you forsaken Me?” The Greek word for forsaken is to “leave or abandon”. For the first time in His existence, Jesus could not feel the presence of His Father, He was alone. He went through this for us, so that we would never have to feel alone, abandoned or deserted by the one who loves us. However, we often do feel alone. All of us go through times when we feel alone, deserted and/or excluded. This morning I want to examine this as it relates to the Church. You see Christian folks are very adept at excluding people – even other Christians.
When I was Elementary School we learned to play a game that in my mind illustrates how Christians exclude others and make them feel alone – the game was called “Musical Chairs”. What would happen is that you would have fewer chairs out than you would people. When the music started, everyone would circle the chairs continually. When the music stopped, whoever did not have a chair, was left out or removed from the game. The goal was to always have a chair to sit in – even if it meant pushing and shoving in order to get to the chair. The winner was the person who sat in the last chair first. Throughout the game, after each round, someone was eliminated or excluded – do you follow me? This morning I want you to visualize this game, perhaps you even played it when you were a child. Remember how it felt when you were the one who was out? It was not so bad since it was just a game, but lets move forward.
The game of exclusion is learned and played at a very early age. Remember when you were in Elementary School and you would choose teams for playing a sport? There was always one child that no one wanted on their team – the last to be picked, or sometimes they were not picked at all. Exclusion. Maybe that child was you, maybe he or she were I. As we continue to grow older, we got to Jr. High School – where we could continue learning the game of Exclusion. In Jr. High School everyone talked about their boy or girlfriend except the one who did not have one. But the thought was – you were nobody if you did not have one. Ever been there? Exclusion from the conversation – no bragging rights. Finally we get to high school where our learning continues. It is time for the annual prom and you are the only one without a date. Nowadays it is okay to go to the prom without a date, but maybe during your time it was not the most popular thing to do. So again you feel excluded. Now you are an adult and what you learned as a child is still with you. On our jobs we practice the art of exclusion. Have you noticed that in the world the way people are taught to feel good about their self is by comparing himself or herself to someone who may not be as “good” as them. So on our jobs we exclude those who may not be in “our club” or “the club”. Everyone is excluded from something, so the goal becomes to work you way up the ladder to the point where you are in the “exclusive” club and everyone desires to be where you are. What is so amazing to me is that what we do in the world we bring into the Church, but what we do at church we do not always bring into the world. The way we act at home and on our jobs is often how we “eventually” act at Church. I say eventually because anyone can hide their true selves for a 1-2 hour church service, but when you have more interactions with them, the true inner self begins to come out.
Remember how you felt when you were excluded? A lot of things go on in our minds. We ask the question “Why me?” wondering if something is wrong with us. We sit on the sidelines and watch with envying eyes as others enjoy what we would love to have or be a part of. We begin to find fault with others in an attempt to ease our own pain and suffering. Have you ever said something like “Well I really did not want to be a part of that anyway” when you were left out of something? We can also become bitter; we get so used to be alone that it becomes what we are used to and what we expect. It gets to the point that when others try to have use becomes a part of the group, we cannot function well because we have been used to being alone. I want you to think about my example of “Musical Chairs”. I want you to follow this process as to what happens so you will be able to see how easily we exclude people in our Churches: