What we want and what we get are often two very different things!
You would think that inthe church of all places we would easily find community. However, our churches often consist of a large group ofpeople coming together for worship but leaving in cliques. New comers may be welcomed in word while excluded from our conversations and activities.
Even Jesus had close friends with whom He spent more time than He did with the large crowds that came to Him for healing or to hear Him preach. Was that a clique? By definition a clique is “a narrow exclusive circle or group of persons; especially:one held together by common interests, views, or purposes.” –Merriam-Webster
A clique doesn’t sound particularly evil or even problematic. Yet, when it comes to unity in community, cliques can be destructive and hinder Christian growth. At the very core of Christianity, we are all called to share in one purpose, God’s forgiveness lived out in unconditional love. As believers we are called to live and grow in love and unity one with another. The idea that Christianity is a clique that outsiders can join by accepting the forgiveness of Christ and joining in His body through grace by faith would and should be the definition of a Christian clique. Cliques of Christians in the church body that exclude other believers is the harsh and sad reality.
As a teacher and mother, I have seen the devasting effects of cliques on the lives of vulnerable boys and girls seeking to find a welcome place among their peers. How can we help our children to avoid the pitfall of forming cliques in a manner that be continued into their adult lives?
It won’t be easy. It’s an uphill battle. As social beings we gravitate toward those we find the most familiar and comfortable; we avoid those we see as different. As sinful creatures we lust for power and take pride in being included to the exclusion of others.
Without intentionally trying we can be promoting this idea that cliques are better than broader community in the games we allow our children to play, the sports rivalry that participate in, and through their experience with on line social media. None of these activities are sinful or wrong activities given moderation and oversight. Without someone to help our children interpret their feelings and navigate the social repercussions that these activities promote our children can become scared and hardened.
Children are bombarded with one life experience after another, experiencing to some degree the joy of acceptance and the misery of rejection day after day. This sometimes happens from as early preschool when their mom insists they just have to get into a private privileged school and they are rejected. They may hear stories of their rejection for years to come. The result if not countered will be an emphasis on their need to be on the inside doing the rejecting rather than on the outside being rejected.
Jesus gave His disciples a new commandment just before He was taken from them to face the cross. “I give you a new commandment—to love oneanother. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love oneanother.” His very next statement is one of the most profound about the power of loving one another. “Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples—if you have love for one another.” John 13:34 -35 (NET Bible)
Children are naturally born with a desire to be loved and with the capacity to love freely. They are also born with a sinful selfish nature that will seek to dominate their choices and control their attention, focusing on promoting self and dominating others. They will long for community but not naturally understand or seek for unity. It is our job as teachers and parents to shepherd their hearts and minds in the way of God’s unconditional love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness.
What a wonder and miracle it is that God allows such selfish, sinful beings to not only share in one another’s lives through good and growing relationships but also to become one with Him. He has given us His Spirit to live in us, work through us and empower us for His good purposes. He is up to the task of using us if we will let Him. It is never too late.