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Christian Counseling - "Us and Them"

Do you remember the words from this song?
You and me against the world
Sometimes it feels like you and me against the world.
When all others turn their back and walk away
You can count on me to stay.

During the 70's the Australian born pop singer, Helen Reddy, sang the hit "You and Me Against the World" to her daughter Traci, who was featured in speaking the opening and closing words. The song is about commitment and dependability and speaks to the eternal bond between a mother and her daughter and of family life that continues beyond "when one of us is gone."

The peaceful security of knowing someone will always be there is something to which most everyone can relate. Those who know this have also likely experienced others who have walked away or abandoned them.

It is seriously unfortunate that many Christians take an "us and them" position. It is not infrequent to hear someone express, in so many words, that their denomination or even their specific church is the "us" and all others are "them," meaning the "us" alone has the truth. This kind of exclusivity is not birthed from scripture, but from protectionism and fear.

A person who feels he or she have been identified as one of "them," knows the pain of rejection, especially after having been a significant part of the life of a group or church. They are deeply affected by the suspicious and unaccepting attitude of others who have emotionally and/or physically walked away. They know the chastisement of being treated as a stranger. They also know it can easily happen by committing, what seems like, an unpardonable sin or by not believing exactly like the "us" does. They often continue on in their church the best they can, for a while.

The fear of loss and rejection pressures people to be like the "us." We all need to belong and to be accepted and cared for, and we know that some sacrifice of individuality is required, but how much? Morally, not very much, for our acceptance of people should not be based on a requirement that others believe exactly what we believe, but based on the truth that they are a unique creation of God. The righteous attitude is to "accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us..." (Romans 15:7). We are fully accepted right in the middle of living our sinful life and with all the varied differences of beliefs, thoughts and feelings. As Christians, we are called by God to be like Him, to love all people and regard anyone who follows Christ as family. Yet, for the many who do not have this love or accepting and gracious attitude, their insecurity demands of others a devastating amount of negative self-denial to fit in.

The wounded are left anxious and restless, and grow dissatisfied with superficial acceptance. They feel adrift from the anchoring of deep relationships, inhibited from volunteering to do the work of the church and can be overwhelmed by loneliness. If that isn't enough, they often experience a cooling in their relationship with God. Over time, most realize that the price to pay for inclusion is too great and something has to give.

In their pain and as a result of their maturity, they come to realize they should be true to God and their own beliefs. The collected knowledge and insights gained over the years inevitably leads them to see a different light than others, and they know it is right to say so by reasonable comments and good questions. That assertive behavior is supported by the Word, but often not taken well by others who feel threatened, especially if the group or church has maintained an "us and them" mentality. In the end, many feel driven from their brothers and sisters in the Lord. Some will give other churches a try, but it will be difficult to rebuild a sense of safety and become an integral part of another church body.

Another response of the wounded is to join the ranks of 10's of millions of Americans who no longer attend church. They either go it alone with God or they create or find a small group to attend. Ironically, they can end up with a similar "us and them" attitude, if distrust prevails. God cares deeply about those who fall victim to this sin, and desires their recovery.

Perhaps you can be of help. Have you or others you know experienced the "us and them" mindset? What have you or others found to be helpful? Do you have any suggestions?

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