Whoever is not with me is against me,and whoever does not gather with me scatters. – Matthew 12:30
Message pastors are now telling their congregations to have nothing to do with anyone who leaves the message, an ex-believer is now their enemy.
This is devastating. This is wrong.
Yet, I assure you it is happening.
Families who are neighbors living next door to one another wait to check their mailbox until the coast is clear. Restaurants are surveyed before entering. Parking lots are checked for familiar vehicles.
You might run into someone you have known for 20 years at the grocery store, you’ve ate together, you’ve stayed at their house, their kid was in your wedding. Now they avoid eye contact and duck the other way.
It hurts. A lot.
Telling my children they couldn’t see their friends anymore was hard. It wasn’t my choice, I invited and invited and invited. They declined every single time. Months have passed, it’s like we never existed.
My kids don’t understand. They ask me, “Mommy why can’t they come over to play? Are they sick?”
I told them the truth and I watched their little faces form emotions of confusion and sadness. “But mommy, we still love Jesus.”
“Yes. Yes we do.”
My kids have gone through phases pretending their little friends are coming for a visit. They get everything set up only to walk away. They start to ask if their friend can come over to play with a new toy and stop mid-sentence to say, “Never mind.”
You have moments when you are out shopping and you see something that you know a friend would like. You find a recipe you want to make and invite them over to try. Mostly, you just ache to talk to them. You want to pour your heart out and tell them how hard this is.
You need them and they have shut themselves off from you.
I miss my friends. I miss having a cup of coffee and chatting. I miss their Facebook posts. I miss seeing pictures of their kids and hearing what they are up to.
I’ve had to ask myself, were they really my friend at all or was I just a convenient choice because we had “so much in common”?
You fight depression and complexes. You think maybe if you were more _______ they would still want to be your friend. If you hadn’t done ___________ your kids would still have their playmates.
You wonder, why they haven’t came to your aid, bringing you the answers that comfort them?
Slowly your friend count begins to drop. The invites stop coming and you are now the subject of the latest “news”.
“Did you hear the ______ family left? Can you believe it!? No, I haven’t seen her yet! Do you think she’s cut her hair? You know it’s coming, they always do. Mmm-hmm, pants too.”
And on it goes. No phone calls, no emails asking why you have not been to church. Silent assumption greets you.
I have to admit this offends me even still. Did not Jesus say we are to leave and go after the one lost sheep? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not lost. But they think I am, so why didn’t they come find me?
Jesus said He wouldn’t loose one of his. Not one.
You go ahead and shun me. Take me off of your friend list. Ignore my emails, leave the restaurant I’m sitting in, exit the grocery aisle I’m standing in, that’s fine. I won’t pretend it doesn’t hurt, though I try to. I want you to know, I’ll be right here when you need me.
“When people realize it is the living God you are presenting and not some idol that makes them feel good, they are going to turn on you, even people in your own family. There is a great irony here: proclaiming so much love, experiencing so much hate! But don’t quit. Don’t cave in. It is all well worth it in the end. It is not success you are after in such times but survival. Be survivors! Before you’ve run out of options, the Son of Man will have arrived.”
“Don’t be intimidated. Eventually everything is going to be out in the open, and everyone will know how things really are. So don’t hesitate to go public now.
“Don’t be bluffed into silence by the threats of bullies. There’s nothing they can do to your soul, your core being. Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life—body and soul—in his hands.”
“Stand up for me against world opinion and I’ll stand up for you before my Father in heaven. If you turn tail and run, do you think I’ll cover for you?
“Don’t think I’ve come to make life cozy. I’ve come to cut—make a sharp knife-cut between son and father, daughter and mother, bride and mother-in-law—cut through these cozy domestic arrangements and free you for God. Well-meaning family members can be your worst enemies. If you prefer father or mother over me, you don’t deserve me. If you prefer son or daughter over me, you don’t deserve me.
“If you don’t go all the way with me, through thick and thin, you don’t deserve me. If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me.” -The Message