The world, the worldly, and sometimes even fellow Christians tell us that we are not enough, not worthy, not wanted, not liked or loved, and just not a good fit to be in their fellowship and with their friends. The message is rarely overt, but none the less, the message is as crystal clear as a dinner bell. Some may not know or realize what they are saying or doing when they snub someone or are silent. Some do.
Over the past year or so, a lot of relationships have changed or even ceased among our friends and families. Social isolation drove many to social media platforms for connections and to meet our needs for value and validation. Unfortunately, social media platforms and an expanding worldly worldview among our population has spurred trends among our young people (and some of us older ones, too) for increasing cases of depression, malaise, anxiety, and even suicide.
The devil often uses our pasts, our insecurities, and our many faults to trip us up. He even uses those we call friends to intimate to us and whisper softly to others that we aren’t quite good enough and that we aren’t worthy to be in their company, to be their friend, or to share in their fellowship. Clicks and clubs among other groups and methods have been a way to exclude and reject for a long time. The cancel culture is even seen among the members of Christ’s church. There is really nothing new under the sun, but these things are still hurtful and even harmful, especially to young girls and women.
On the day after Jesus fed over 5000 men with only five barley loaves and two small fish, the crowds followed Jesus across the sea to Capernaum. As Jesus was questioned by the crowd, he questioned the crowd’s motives for following Him. Did they just want free food and a miracle or two? He taught them clearly in John 6:29, “The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.” The crowd that followed Jesus found His teachings difficult to understand and accept. Jesus didn’t quite meet their expectations of who He was or how He should be. His mission didn’t fit in with their mindset or worldview.
In John 6:66 the writer says, “From that time on many of His disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him.” When push came to shove, Jesus, God’s own and only Son, sent with a message of love and reconciliation for all mankind was rejected by most. In this passage, Jesus seems sad and even dejected by the reaction of those precious souls He loved and came to die for.
After the crowds left from following Him, Jesus turned to the twelve and asked if they wanted to leave Him too. Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God.” They understood. They listened to Him. They believed in and appreciated Him, but most didn’t.
Sometimes today, just like in Jesus’ day, who we are and what we are about doesn’t meet the standards and expectations of others. Some people just won’t get us or our mission. Not everyone will like us. We’re not their flavor, style, type, or cup of tea as a person. We are and will be rejected, deemed unacceptable or unworthy to be in their company or at their party or event. We are not invited. We are summarily disfellowshipped, and removed or isolated from their presence, often without a hearing or even knowing why. We are just excluded.
It doesn’t matter that we said something awkward, dumb, or even the wrong thing at the wrong time in the wrong way and didn’t realize it. It doesn’t matter that we are sorry when we have a faux pas or unintentionally hurt someone’s feelings. Cancel culture has no room for mercy or grace – much less real forgiveness. It doesn’t matter that we don’t know how to be the life of the party or even if we do. Whether too serious or too silly, we somehow don’t stack up to be selected for the group, team, meeting, event, click, or whatever.
It can be very painful from the outside looking in, knowing that friendship and fellowship are out of reach and withheld from us in our families, among some we consider our friends, and even within our congregations of Christian brothers and sisters.
The devil wants us to feel alone and isolated. He’s happy to divide and destroy relationships and reputations. He will use any and all methods, including our families and friends, to discourage and depress us. The devil wants to distract us from what is important and dissuade us from doing and following the good and perfect will of God, our Father. The devil used the same techniques on Jesus during His life and ministry here on earth. In His last moments on the cross, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!” The agony of all the sins of every person past, present, and future fell on Jesus’ shoulders on the cross that crucifixion day, and though God can not be in the presence of sin – God didn’t forsake Jesus. God, through Christ and the cross, worked out and fulfilled His wonderful and perfect plan of salvation for us.
When rejected, let’s remember what Jesus said in John 15:18 and following: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’
Sometimes people will hate us without reason also. Sometimes the reason we are rejected and excluded is because we do belong to Christ, and that makes some uncomfortable. Sometimes people are just flat out mean, and mean to be hurtful. Sometimes they are simply thoughtless and careless of their words and actions.
In any case, the devil will take any and every reason and opportunity to hurt and dishearten us. That’s why we must keep in mind that our battle is not against flesh and blood. Our battle is not with the people who reject or exclude us. Our battle is with the devil and spiritual forces of evil. That’s why God tells us to put on our armor and be fully dressed for when (not if) the battles of this life come. The devil loves to hurt us and will use family, friends, and foes to do it.
The key to dealing with this issue is to keep ourselves in the Word of God and recognize the ways the devil schemes. When we hold up the shield of our faith, the Bible says that we “can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” We must keep top of mind that on our heads we wear the helmet of salvation. Our destiny and eternity with God are sure. Lastly, with the sword of the Spirit, “which is the Word of God” we can go on offense to counter the lies the devil tells us – even and at times, through those we know, love, admire, and respect.
With our armor on, we are instructed next in God’s word to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” How often do we try to solve our own problems not remembering Matthew 11 which says, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Let’s lay down our yokes and burdens and take the one Jesus offers. Psalm 55:22 says, “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.”
God cares for us down to the hairs on our head and knows exactly what we need. Sometimes what we think we need, isn’t really what we need. Perhaps God prefers we seek His fellowship over that of those we would want as friends. In our prayers, let’s trust Him. Romans 8:26 tells us that we have an advocate in the Holy Spirit. The verse says, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” For those in Christ, God is for us. In fact the Bible says, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” How awesome is that?
The answer to feeling rejected, ignored, disliked, unwanted, unloved, unworthy, etc. is to get dressed with God’s protective armor, hold up our shields, rightly wield our swords, and pray at all times in the Spirit. This gives us the protection and the provision for the battles in this world with both ‘friends’ and foes.
We can not “make” others act rightly or follow the Lord or His commands. We can only and must focus on what we can do. Our focus needs to be on our relationship with Christ following and obeying our heavenly Father. Jesus said in John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” That’s how we need to respond to rejection. Jesus said in John 15, “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” We need to follow Christ’s lead and act with love towards others – whether family, friend, or foe. Remember, we are only responsible for our actions, not theirs.
In conclusion, I Peter 3:8-17 says, “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.”
Let’s remember these verses. Let’s look to the Lord for our identities, our value, and our relationship needs. He is able. He loves us. He wants us. He valued us more highly than His only Son. He has set a table for us – even in the presence of our enemies. He is the only One who will never let us down and always has what is for our best in mind. Trust Him. Depend on Him. He will be there for us, even when or if one else is.
I am thinking on these things…
Robin Robbins House
4 thoughts on “Friends, Foes, and Fellowship”
I really enjoyed this writing. A great way to start off the New Year. Thank you Robin for knowing what so many people need to hear.
Well said, Robin! These days of cancel culture are difficult, even within our families! Thank you for reminding me of Jesus’ words.
Julie, Thanks for your comment and for reading. I read about some churches dividing over masks and vaccine mandates. I hope people will turn and respect and love one another as well as remember to live like Jesus showed us. I hope you all are well.
Thank you so much for reading, Kelly. You are a treasure to me and so many. Thanks for being a light and such a loving person to me and others.
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