To Clique or Not to Clique

Have you ever felt that what you see on social media isn’t real? If you know how social media works, you know almost everything you see isn’t really the way it is. But that is one side of things. The other side, which I got tired of seeing, is how prideful people are. I originally joined social media to see what friends across the ocean were doing, what was new in their lives, to see photos that were too heavy to send by email, to stay updated with them and with what was going on. As more people were added, I began to see the ugly side of social media. I understand the need to share things with others, to document seasons in life and have online memories to reflect upon later. But at some point, social media stopped being social. It became all about self. Look where “I” was, look at what “I” did, look who “I” was with, look at “my” accomplishments, look at how successful “I” am. Some of these posts also mention God and give Him thanks for what He has done. But, on the whole, when we look at all of them, who really gets the credit? Who really is honored? And what is the purpose of the posting?

Social media is a reflection of real-life attitudes. I never liked social cliques, and liked them even less when I saw them within the believing community. As a teen, finding close friends within the believing community was a challenge, because I always felt like an outsider, never part of a clique. But, by His grace, God always gave me close friends at different times in my life. Looking at people today, sadly I see these cliques continuing. Those “inside” often don’t see themselves as part of a clique, but that doesn’t change the reality. It’s great to spend time with friends and not to have to spend time with people who don’t make a positive impact on our lives. But sensitivity to others is diminished. Demonstrating love to others has faded. Most of us have experienced what it is like to be talking with someone, only to be interrupted by a third person who comes along, says “hello” and is warm towards the person I am talking to, but ignores me completely. Such behavior is not only rude and causes hurt. It demonstrates an unloving attitude towards the person now being left out of the picture. We can expect this from “the world”, but it is grievous when it is done within the Believing community. I wrote a few years ago in this post “When pride kicks in” how I felt that this type of behavior results from the failure, or refusal, to see others as beneficial to them, so they don’t see a reason to be kind or warm to them. Not everyone agreed with that, and I’m sure that some will not agree with what I say here. But, that is OK. The questions we need to consider then, are: Why do people behave like that? Why ignore one and be warm to another? Why invite all except for one?

I am not saying that we need to be close with everyone. That goes contrary to human nature. I am not close with everyone in my congregation, but I make the effort and try to be warm and kind to others, even those I don’t know. I don’t always succeed at that. Still, knowing what it is like to be left on the “outside”, I try to welcome those who are new or alone in the fellowship. Social media only reflects what we see in reality, the pride of life, calling others to pay attention to the citadel of self. I do have an Instagram account, as you may have seen on this blog, but it is a business account, not personal. I believe that if there is something important for me to share with others, I will do so with people I can truly call “friends”. Not social media friends. It’s not wrong to share things on social media. But when we do share, we need to ask ourselves why we want to share what we share.

I want to encourage us all to keep our eyes and hearts open to people around us, especially those in the faith. Let us pray that we can genuinely show sensitivity to others, to act as Messiah would act, to think as He would think, to speak as He would speak. Loving my neighbor as myself can only be done from the inside out. I know that I am not there yet, but I press on, knowing that the work He began in me will be brought to completion. A handful of the followers of the Lord Yeshua turned the then-known world upside down – all without computers and smart phones. Their “social media” was their testimony about the Lord. What is ours?

There is a higher throne

People disappoint. We have all experienced that kind of disappointment. We have certain expectations of people, think we know them and maybe even regard them as close friends. And then something happens that not only surprises, but disappoints us. And, the worst thing about the situation is that the people who did the offending or who disappointed us didn’t even realise that they did something wrong or improper, or failed to do what was reasonably expected of them.

Why is that? I think people often tend take others for granted, especially if it’s someone that they have know for years, or that they’re close to. Sadly, it is so easy to do and, if we’re honest with ourselves, we will admit that we all fail in that respect. One moment those people need you and are close to you. At another time they don’t and you aren’t beneficial to them now.  What would cause such a shift in relationships? The answer could be multi-faceted. Certainly, pride could blind them from saying so or even from realising it. But, they expect that when they need you again, you will spring into action for them. I think we’ve all experienced that? I certainly have – on both sides of the fence. At those times, when I am on the receiving end of the offense, I try my hardest to understand how this person could behave like this. I often find myself saying that I shouldn’t expect from people to behave in one way or another, so that I wouldn’t be disappointed when they don’t. But I think that attitude is wrong. People are not perfect and no matter how hard they try to be good, human nature is corrupt and, as a result, it will disappoint. The only questions are “when” and “under what circumstances”?

We have a tendency to exalt people and place them on a pedestal, even those we consider friends. But, shouldn’t we look to a higher throne – the throne on which the King of Kings sits, Who knows how we feel as people, as human beings. He knows how weak we are. We disappoint other people, but we sadden Him more by our sinful behaviour. I choose to look to Him who will never let me down, instead of to people. He knows our frame and despite our sinful nature, He longs to be gracious to us. At this season, we need to remember: our redemption is closer today than ever before. Let’s focus our eyes on the higher Throne, because He Who loves us with an everlasting love is seated there.

© Hannah Kramer

Where has the love gone?

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

A friend of mine published her first album, featuring songs written and arranged by her, accompanied by a few more friends, who sang and played. One of her songs especially touched my heart. As my friend introduced that song, she mentioned she hadn’t seen many songs (at least in Hebrew) that spoke about love. There are, of course, songs about the Father’s love for us and our love for Him, but there are very few songs about brotherly love, if at all. What she said struck me and I suddenly realized that she was right. I have been pondering this issue for a while now, even before she introduced her song. I was at an event where we sang some worship songs at the beginning of the event, and one song was how we love the Lord Yeshua, because He first loved us. Then this thought came to mind: We can’t love each other, brother and sisters in Messiah Yeshua, unless we first love Him.

Seems kind of obvious, right? We are commanded to love one another, as the Lord Yeshua loves us. Easier said than done. Why is it then that there aren’t many songs about brotherly love? Is it perhaps because our brotherly love may be lacking? Maybe it’s easier to say we love the Lord than to say we love our brothers. In both instances, love would need to be demonstrated. We know we often fail the Lord, but He is always ready to forgive. Not so with the brethren. Perhaps, it’s easier to love those who are closer to us, or those who are easier to love. Why is it that we don’t greet every believer warmly, with brotherly affection? Why is it we can walk by people we fellowship with, serve with and even grow up with, and not say ‘hello’, and genuinely inquire how they are doing? Where has all the love gone? Did it ever really exist in the first place?

It is very disturbing to see such incidents. Yes, I, too, at times greet only those with whom I am close and those whom I know better. But, I do try my best to greet everyone, even if we have differences of opinion, or theology or if we just aren’t the best of friends. I am troubled when believers gossip and put down fellow believers. I am saddened at seeing people being regarded so highly that it creates a form of elite amongst us. Where has the love gone?

My friend’s song about brotherly love mentions “If any of us stumbles, we will restore him with the spirit of meekness.” (@aperfectheart). How often do we do that?

In order to raise each other up, in order to “bear one another’s burdens” (Galations 6:2), we must first rid ourselves of pride. The following verse reads “for if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself” (verse 3). Are we too proud to do that?

There is a song that I grew up with, which I remember always. It’s from “Psalty the singing song book”. Some of you may know it. Here is a clip of the song –

Make me a servant – Kids Praise 4:  

It’s so easy to talk about passages like 1st Corinthians 13 and emphasize again and again that this is what love is and that we should love each other. Yes, it is a great description of what love is and yes, we should love like that. But, saying it is not enough. I believe that the love we are supposed to demonstrate towards one another has gotten cold. And, in some instances, it’s cold, it’s almost freezing. Oh, we know how to love when it comes to our friends, particularly to those who us love in return. Or, to those who are beneficial for us. We can care, help and be warm and friendly. But, when we have no particular need of someone, yes, no need, we often have a tendency to disregard them. Just like any object we might have and don’t need. Instead of treating our brethren like humans, we tend to treat them as objects; we either need them or we don’t. And our attitude towards them reflects that and it changes along with that. Instead of warmth and help and love, we get, or give, a cold shoulder and demonstrate apathy.

As those called by and who believe in the God of love, who loved us while we were yet sinners, we cannot and must not be this way. When we truly love the Lord Yeshua, His life and love in us are enable us to love one another. God cares deeply about our relations as brothers and sisters. So much so, that a man cannot bring his sacrifice before Him until he has made peace with his brother (Matthew 5:21-26).

The Lord Yeshua humbled himself and washed the feet of His deciples, even the feet of Judah, whom His knew was going to betray Him. What a love He had and demonstrated in real time! We are commanded to follow His example. Can we wash the feet of those we dislike, don’t get along with, even – hate? Once we take the towel and start washing sore, dirty, filthy feet, and tending to wounds, we learn humility pretty fast. Imagine cleaning those feet with love. How tender and caring the cleaning would be, and how precious to the one receiving. Imagine how you would feel if someone you didn’t get along with and maybe can’t stand the sight of, took a towel and washed your feet, treating them with love and care, until all the wounds were gone and they were soft and clean.

The attitude with which I come to wash my brothers feet is important. If I have resentment towards him, my face will show disgust and repulse at washing his feet, especially if they are full of blisters. But when I love my brother, through the love of Messiah Who is in me, though there may be blisters, I will want to tend to them. Here lies the difference. Lest we tend to think in a box, the washing of feet is not only physical. It also has to do with helping to remove the filth of the world which affects all of us daily, whether we are conscious of it or not. A hand on a shoulder, a word in season, a smile and an offer to come alongside, a telephone call or email saying “the Lord brought you to mind and I just prayed for you and want to know how you are” can be as much of a healing and comforting blessing as a physical foot-washing.

Love is part of fruit of the spirit (Galations 5:22). Notice the rest of the passage – “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other” (23-26, emphasis added).

Godly love does not seek its own glory and is not competitive. It helps us encourage one another to run the race with diligence and not to give up. When we truly love, we pray for one another and seek the other’s good. When we truly love, we reflect the presence of the  Lord Yeshua in us. He is not ashamed to call us brothers. Are we?

I want to leave today you with this poem by Ruth Harms Calkin, called “I Wonder”. It touched my heart and pray that it will yours.

© Hannah Kramer

I Wonder – by Ruth Harms Calkin

You know, Lord, how I serve You 
With great emotional fervor
In the limelight.

You know how eagerly I speak for You
At a women’s club.

You know how effervesce when I promote
A fellowship group.

You know my genuine enthusiasm
At a Bible study.

But how would I react, I wonder…
If You pointed me to a basin of water
And asked me to wash the calloused feet
Of a bent and wrinkled old woman

Day after day
Month after month
In a room where nobody saw
And nobody knew

When pride kicks in

“But let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 09:24)

Whenever I hear people share about their ministry or give testimonies, I start to pray that they will not mention themselves too much, so that a resonating “me, me, me” will not fill the room. I enjoy hearing people share these things, but at times there is a tendency to focus on ourselves, accompanied by saying “it is for God” every so often. The focus changes and then without notice, the words that come out from our mouth are “I did”, “I accomplished”, as if all that has been done was by our own wisdom and strength.

Not too long ago, I came across a situation like that, And then it hit me. I felt disgusted by the blatant pride that others were exhibiting. But, more than that, I was disgusted with myself. Why? Because all of a sudden I had a close look at my very own Pride. I will not get into detail, but I did realize my pride in thinking I knew more and that I could do better. Imagine looking at yourself in the mirror, truly seeing yourself … thoughts, feelings, emotions and everything on display before your eyes. I had to realize and perhaps feel for myself how God hates pride once I saw it myself and felt the disgust.

Usually, it is just the opposite. We can’t stand pride when we see it in others. But, somehow, we seem to tolerate it when it comes to ourselves. We think we deserve it and, therefore, it is acceptable.

Pride and envy often seem to go hand in hand. What do I have to be proud of? Have I accomplished anything by my own strength? Have I saved anyone? Have I a position and status achieved by none other than – me? Have I a right to say “I am an example for you”? No. All that has been accomplished in my life is by God’s grace and that alone. All that I am is by his grace alone. If I have shared the Gospel with someone and that person believed, it is God that saved. Not me. Any role or position that I or you may have is, again, by God’s grace. Paul said “follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). I hope to be such an example that others could see Christ in me as they look at me. Yet even then, will I boast? “Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; an outsider, and not your own lips” (Proverbs 27:2).

James wrote that Elijah was a man like us and we see by his life that, indeed, he had feelings like us. Perhaps the most famous story about him is the miracle om Mt. Carmel. Yet what happened after that? Elijah ran for his life and even asked God to take it. When he arrived to the cave (1 Kings 18), he told God that there were no more people left who worshipped God, only him. Had he forgotten that Obediah hid prophets and told him so before the miracle on the mountain? Maybe, just maybe, mixed up with his depression, there was a touch of pride there, that God had to show Elijah in order to prepare him for the future. God spoke to Elijah in the still small voice, not in fire or wind or storm. And then, He reminded him that He left 7,000 knees which did not bow to Ba’al. Elijah was a prophet that was chosen for that time in the history of the Jewish people, yet he was not the only one. Do we sometimes feel as though we are so special that no one else can do what we do? Yes, God called Elijah especially for the job, but it was not because of who he was or what he has done, but because God chose him to do so. Elijah learned humility in a cave, in order to go to the bottom of the mountain. He would later be placed on the top of another mountain in a special time in history. Elijah was on Mt. Hermon along with Moses, the most humble person and with our Lord Yeshua, Who humbled Himself even to death on the cross. Pride could not stand in the Lord Yeshua’s presence.

Unfortunately, there are those who take pride in themselves for many reasons. We like the flattery and compliments from those around us. It is so important to us that everyone knows that was my idea, my doing, the credit should go to me. Even when we are right and the “credit” does go to us, will we boast about it? Is our name so important to us? My dad always tells me “when you take care of God’s name, He will take care of yours”. Status, positions, money, academic degrees and being part of the right “clique” are only some of the things people pride themselves in. And when pride kicks in, love is kicked out. Pride becomes an obstacle to prevent us from truly loving the Lord Yeshua and our brethren (more on that in the next post).

Pride is one of the things God despises (Proverbs 8:13). We should remember to give God the glory and honor, and not only say it in words, but to confirm it in our hearts first and turn in our actions.

What have we to boast in but in our Lord Yeshua? “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galations 6:14).

© Hannah Kramer