“The Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying, ‘Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?’” (Luk 5:30)
My wife and I recently watched a movie entitled, ‘The Shunning.’ It was about an adopted Amish girl whose adoption had been a well-kept secret both from her and from the entire Amish community.
Her adoptive mother had lost her baby at birth. At the same hospital a young unmarried girl had just given birth. The unmarried girl gave her baby to the Amish woman. When the Amish mother returned home she and her husband agreed to keep the adoption a secret from everyone.
When the adoptive daughter was intended to marry the Amish bishop, she gained knowledge of her adoption. It created an emotional struggle in her life. She refused to marry the bishop. Failing to repent, the Amish elders placed her under the ban of ‘shunning.’ This meant no one could talk to her or have contact with her on any level. She became a pariah (outcast).
The movie ended up on a good note, but it triggered a memory for me. Years ago I was in business with a gentleman from a Mennonite background. Because he had married a Catholic Hispanic woman, he also was shunned. Wayne Decker shared with me that when they visited his parents, his family had to sit at a separate table from his parents at meal times. It made my heart heavy when he talked about shunning.
But shunning is not simply an Amish or a Mennonite issue. Most religious sects do it in one measure or another.
I know by experience.
“These People Will Never Have Anything Else To Do With You.”
Those were the words I heard from my former presbyter when I handed him a letter of resignation. I was leaving the Pentecostal group that I had been associated with through the years, both as a pastor and as an evangelist.
My response was simple, “Brother, I understand. Just be sure that the people understand that what I believe now, is what I believed when I first came here.”
Here’s the story – When I first came to him three years earlier, his church had just gone through a split. Knowing that I was an evangelist, he ask me to help him to rebuild.
There was a problem. The denomination we were associated with had a firm belief that a person had to speak in tongues as an evidence of their salvation. I shared with him that I did not believe that.
When he still asked me to work with him, we made a gentleman’s agreement. We agreed to disagree about having to speak in tongues. With that, I took to heart that I would not let my belief become an issue for the church.
And it never did become an issue. Yet when I heard, “Brother Martin, these people will never have anything else to do with you’, I never realized just how real those words would become.
To this day it yet amazes me how many (but not all) of my former group are afraid to be seen having any form of relationship with me. Oddly enough they will communicate with me privately but not in a public way. How sad to be a prisoner to this kind of fear. The Bible speaks to this –
“The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted.” (Pro 29:25)
Have I ever wanted to turn back? Not for a moment. I found that the Lord had greater things for me to become involved with. But I do carry a sorrow in my heart for those who stay in such a sad world.
Wow, hard to believe that was 38 years ago. I was 34. I am now 74.
Have there been any changes? The answer is yes, and, no.
There will always be shunning with many religious groups. Yet through the years I’ve seen hundreds of people leave my former association on much the same terms as I left. Yes, I said literally hundreds.
And this is where the Lord began to use me to help people who were being shunned or were afraid of being shunned by that group.
God had me set up…
A Safety Net for the Shunned
It has never been my design to seek anyone out. Yet through the years, many members from my past association began to seek me out, including both pastors and other ministers, and/or their wives. My time included much counselling.
Finally it dawned on me that these folk needed a safety-net, where those being shunned could share with one another.
In 2005, I set in place a restricted ‘members-only’ forum designed strictly for the shunned. Since that time it has grown to several hundred members.
Yes, I still do personal counselling for the shunned, but I try to get them involved in the safety net group that I set up.
Some are so gripped with fear of being discovered, that they never subscribe to the group. So, when I made mention of hundreds, that is true enough. I’m including the well over 200 current members on the forum, and the many others that I’ve counselled through the years.
Anyway, for those reading this entry who are struggling over the issue of being shunned, I brought the safety-net group over to Facebook. Ask the Lord if this group is His will for you. It may be just what you need. (I will need to know about your background and concerns.)
In addition you can contact me personally: Buddy@ChristianChallenge.Org.
Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?
Many don’t realize that it was religion that crucified Jesus. And religion will continue to crucify people until the people themselves wake up to the reality that Jesus did not come to give us another religion. He came to give us Himself.
The struggle has always been there. Shunning will always be there.
The important thing to understand is that Jesus came to give us a relationship with the heavenly Father. Our citizenship is not of this world, nor are we to live in bondage to any religious system.
The Lord told Pilate, that His kingdom was not of this world. Yet sectarianism has made it all about religion. They have made their group to be the kingdom of God.
Stop and think about that – What is the cause of war on this planet. Are not most wars based on an issue of religion?
The apostle Paul said,
“If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, ‘Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!’ (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)–in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men?
“These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.” (Col 2:20-23)
Did you catch it. Self-made religion.
Smoke in God’s Nostrils
Have you ever wondered why Jesus by-passed the religious authorities of that day? Have you wondered why he ate and drank with prostitutes, with tax-collectors, and with sinners of various cloths? He did so because the religious bigots of that day, with all their rituals and rules, had set up barriers that hindered the people from coming to God.
Where religion offered condemnation, Jesus offered grace, forgiveness, and acceptance. Where religion sought to control the people, Jesus offered true freedom.
What did God Himself have to say about this attitude?
“Who say, ‘Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am holier than you!’ These are smoke in My nostrils, a fire that burns all the day.” (Isa 65:5)
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, 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.” (Mat 11:28-29)
The yoke of religion never changes.
Not of This World
Oddly enough, nothing that I have shared has anything to do with the church that Jesus came to set up. The church that Jesus put into place cannot be found in any earthly leanings or borders. It is mystical and without boundaries.
The writer of Hebrews described the church in these terms:
“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.” (Heb 12:22-24)
The Church of Jesus Christ is made up of true believers from every age, kindred, and tongue.
The Church that Jesus put into place is transcendent in nature, being the body of Christ, existing without schism in its spiritual essence. His Church has only one Great Shepherd and Bishop, Christ Jesus Himself.
The Church that Jesus said He would build, is not of this world. And this is why you will find truly born-again believers in every Christian group.
Actually the invisible Church is hidden in the visible church. One day the invisible church will be taken out of this world. All that will be left will be the remnants of man’s organized religions.
Don’t despair – If you belong to Jesus, then you belong to His church.
And don’t be angry at the shunners. In many cases they are just caught up in their own fears. Many of them will eventually escape from their artificial religious prisons. I did and so can you.
Also keep in mind that not all churches are sectarian in heart or nature. There are many, wonderful, God fearing, Jesus loving, churches throughout the world. Ask the Lord where He would like you to be.
While you think on these things, take time for this song – Rooftops, by Jesus Culture.
In Christ Always,