Beloved, my wife & I just saw “The Sound of Freedom.” This one of the most powerful films I have seen in a long time. I urge you to see this, while it is still in movie theatres. Once you have seen the movie, pass it on to friends and family.
“And the foreigners who join themselves to Adonai to serve him, to love the name of Adonai, and to be his workers, all who keep Shabbat and do not profane it, and hold fast to my covenant, I will bring them to my holy mountain and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”
Everywhere I look, either the mainstream news, Facebook posts or twitter, I find evidence of those who wish others to be excluded from the community. The main reason – someone’s opinion has been challenged or someone’s basic beliefs have been questioned. These are hardly adequate reasons for wanting someone excluded from any particular group. These non-inclusive tactics are quite common in totalitarian communities, such as China, North Korea, Russia or Saudi Arabia, but not appropriate in democratic communities, such as Canada and the United States. But why does this happen? Every social group, beit a country, a neighbourhood community or a social group, such as a fraternity or sorority, or a family, has a set of rules or codes, often unwritten, which control how their members behave. How we respond to those who violate or deviate from those rules or codes, depends upon our perceptions of self-worth and our ability to tolerate others’ differences. Groups, such as the KKK and white-supremacists, have very rigid sets of rules and codes, with very clear consequences for their being violated. These groups do not tolerate deviance. Other social groups, such as fundamentalist families, seem to have slightly more tolerance but are known to reject family members, either emotionally or physically, who violate the family rules, on a consistent basis. More mature groups, larger social and family groupings, have more tolerant reactions to deviant behaviours; however, in these groupings, there comes a time when deviant behaviours must be addressed, sometimes resulting in exclusion of guilty members. But what does Scripture say about exclusion of members. Actually, Scripture says a good deal about exclusion of those who do not conform to Adonai’s rules and codes of behaviour. For example, reading from Torah, we know those who violate Adonai’s stated rules, in following Shabbat, the Sabbath, must be excluded from the community. Read, for example, Genesis 16:5,6, when Sarah, The family matriarch, excludes Hagar from the encampment: Sarai said to Avram, “This outrage being done to me is your fault! True, I gave my slave-girl to you to sleep with; but when she saw that she was pregnant, she began holding me in contempt. May Adonai decide who is right — I or you!” However, Avram answered Sarai, “Look, she’s your slave-girl. Deal with her as you think fit.” Then Sarai treated her so harshly that she ran away from her.” Then we have Leviticus 23:27-30, wherein we read: “Adonai said to Moshe, “The tenth day of this seventh month is Yom-Kippur; you are to have a holy convocation, you are to deny yourselves, and you are to bring an offering made by fire to Adonai. You are not to do any kind of work on that day, because it is Yom-Kippur, to make atonement for you before Adonai your God. Anyone who does not deny himself on that day is to be cut off from his people; and anyone who does any kind of work on that day, I will destroy from among his people.” And, then, in Ezra 7:26, we read: “And you, ‘Ezra, making use of the wisdom you have from your God, are to appoint magistrates and judges to judge all the people in the territory beyond the River, that is, all who know the laws of your God; and you are to teach those who don’t know them. Whoever refuses to obey the law of your God and the law of the king, let judgment be executed on him swiftly, whether it be death, banishment, confiscation of goods or imprisonment.” And do we find any instance of exclusion in the Apostolic Scriptures (AKA The New Testament)? Reading Matthew 7:21-23, we find: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, only those who do what my Father in heaven wants. On that Day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord! Didn’t we prophesy in your name? Didn’t we expel demons in your name? Didn’t we perform many miracles in your name?’ Then I will tell them to their faces, ‘I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness!” And in Matthew 25:41, we read: “Then he will also speak to those on his left, saying, ‘Get away from me, you who are cursed! Go off into the fire prepared for the Adversary and his angels!” Thus, even Adonai Yeshua, the Lord Jesus, excluded those who did not accept the free gift of Grace leading to Salvation. We know the impact of exclusion can be devastating on those who are excluded. These impacts range from feelings of abandonment, loss of social connections, anxiety, self-doubt, depression and, in extreme cases, feelings of self-destruction. We read almost every day in the news, stories of teenagers and young adults, who have committed suicide, as reactions to social alienation and rejection. Beloved, exclusion from any social grouping is a reaction to deviant behaviour, which should not be taken lightly; never should it be the first reaction to someone who openly rejects dominant beliefs and codes of behaviour. Using such an approach must be well-considered and carefully contemplated, realising the psychological reactions within the person being excluded. In addition, there must be support offered for those who are being excluded, to enable them to deal with their very normal reactions. It is important to remember that no decision regarding exclusion can be made without the evidence of at least two reliable witnesses. We receive this information from Adonai in Deuteronomy 19:15, wherein we read – “One witness alone will not be sufficient to convict a person of any offense or sin of any kind; the matter will be established only if there are two or three witnesses testifying against him.” And in Revelation 11:3, we find: “Also I will give power to my two witnesses; and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, dressed in sackcloth.” Thus, we find evidence supporting the contention, exclusion from a community must not be taken lightly. CONSIDER: Have you engaged in the rejection or exclusion of someone from your social group, because they disagreed with your belief or stated opinion? Do you believe this was the wisest reaction to another’s opinion? How strong is your self-confidence, if you have excluded another, because of their disagreement? ACT: Consider how the other person may respond to your having excluded her/him? Was this appropriate for the aggrieved ‘sin’ of disagreement? PRAY: Beloved Abba, help me please to attempt to understand others’ opinions and beliefs, without engaging in rage, resulting in a desire to exclude them from my social group. Allow my heart to be gentle and kind, when facing diverse opinions and beliefs. B’Shem Adonai Yeshua, Mashichainu, in Your Beloved Name, I pray. Amen.
May the God of Avraham, Isaac and Jacob bless you fully and richly.