Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I Have to Love You, But I Don't Have to Like You

If you know me, you know I have a fascination with Trekkies.  With all respect and no offense intended, Trekkies are an odd bunch.  They have a deep love of Star Trek that most other people do not understand.  They generally do not fit in anywhere else other than with each other and in that they have created their own close group of fellow enthusiasts.  It is like that with many hobbies or interests where people come together just because no one else is interested in what they are interested in.  As someone who has difficulty finding places where I truly feel as though I fit in, I can appreciate how important that can be.  Not having a place to fit in really does tend to make someone lonely.  One thing there should never be is a lonely Christian living for Jesus.  Shame on us for those times we allow that to happen. 
My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, [the Lord] of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, "You sit here in a good place," and say to the poor man, "You stand there," or, "Sit here at my footstool," have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?  James 2:1-4 NKJV

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  Galatians 3:28 NKJV
Before I begin, I need to preface this by saying that I am speaking of Christians not living lives of sin.  The Bible is clear that they should not be welcome in our fellowship.  This is not the Christian who sins in moments of error but rather the Christian who makes sin the practice of their lives.  For example, I am not speaking of the Christian who goes out with some friends and through poor decision making ends up getting himself drunk, but I am talking about the Christian who goes out regularly looking forward to getting drunk with no desire or actions to repent of that life.  For that kind of Christian, this post does not apply until they repent of their continuing practice of sin.

That said, any Christian living for Jesus should have a loving home in any church they should decide to call their home.  There should be no feelings of judgement or prejudice based on such shallow things as looks, race, social standing, past sins, financial position, etc and so on.  We should only be looking to the same Holy Spirit residing in their hearts that resides in ours.  To do anything else, is to act (as James says) as a "judge with evil thoughts."   That is something we are guilty of each and every time we do not extend the hand of friendship to one of our brothers or sisters in the Lord. 

I think we are all guilty of this at times.  One of the common sayings that people use is that you are called to love each other but never are we called to like each other.  A pastor of mine once said that he would smack the next person who said such a thing.  He probably should, they need to have the stupidity knocked out of them.  The fact is that each time we do not "like" someone, we are being judgmental.  How can you love someone if you do not like  someone?  How can you say you are not showing partiality if you are choosing who you are and who you are not friends with?  The fact is that you are and you are doing a disservice to the body of Christ each time you do such a thing.  Let us look at a few common examples.

I will begin with the most common one being that this person has little in common with you. The first thing you need to look at is what things are not in common.  Many times I find that this is more of a case of that other person not willing to sin as much as you.  Usually that person may not want to drink or spend all their time watching or playing video games, or gossip, or bad mouth other people as much as you do and in that they are not as much "fun" as others to hang out with.  Other times it is nothing sinful at all, you just have different ideas of what to talk about or what to do.  In this case, you really are overlooking the most important thing.  While you may not have many trivial worldly things in common, you have the single most important thing in the world in common.  You are one in Christ Jesus.  You can pray together, talk about the Word, talk about what the Lord is doing in your life, or talk about where the Lord is leading you.  If talking about these things is not something joyful and meaningful to do, then, trust me, the problem is not the other person. 

Sometimes people just rub us the wrong way.  We all have people in our lives that for whatever reason we find annoying.  The answer is to think about what "annoying" even means.  Is is spiritual?  I think is if obvious that it is not.  Is it of the flesh and of the self?  I think clearly that it is.  Think about it, it is usually a personality trait that makes you "feel" annoyed.  It is not the other person who is wrong, but it is you who refuses to deny the flesh to extend the hand of friendship and fellowship to trust God to do that work in your heart to take care of the problem with your flesh.  We must also trust that God will do the same work in their hearts if any of their habits are legitimately annoying.  Think about it though, if being annoying was a reason to not spend time with you, how long ago would your parents (or spouse even) have kicked you to the curb.  We all have our moments and habits that rub people the wrong way.  Just as we hope others will accept those things about us (lest they be sinful), we should accept those same things in others.  

The other issues we see are ones of race, social status, or financial class.  The Christian church has a terrible history in this area.  There were many churches where until relatively recently, black people were not welcome and even today many churches look down upon interracial marriages.  Other churches are such that poorer people do not feel as welcome as they do not fit into wealthier cliques.  We should be utterly ashamed of ourselves that any of this should happen in a Christian church.  Do those churches not read Scripture?  Do they not realize the evil of their actions?  Quite honestly, there should not be huge financial inequality in our churches.  Those who lack should be taken care of by those who have.  The Bible tells us that rather clearly.  The Bible also has stern warnings for those who fail to take care of the brother or sister who lacks.  This means more than just throwing cash at them, it means ministering to them in every way.  It means helping them get on their feet to be able to take care of themselves.  It means befriending them and treating them as a brother in the Lord and not as a poor person in the world.  The fact is that we are all one in Christ and we all share in the same inheritance.  The color of one's skin is meaningless because what you should be looking for is the Holy Spirit inside their hearts.  The size of their bank accounts should also be meaningless as the condition of wealth is fleeting.  There are many poor people who were once rich and many rich people who were once poor and in the end we take none of it with us and only the treasures we have laid up for ourselves in Heaven will matter. 

Then there is the issue of past sins.  This is the most judgmental of all.  The Bible is clear in that the sinful person is who we once were and that now we are new creations in Christ.  The fact that we can hold something over someone that the Lord has separated from him makes us playing the role of Satan.  It is Satan who stands and accuses the brethren,  It is Satan who reminds God of our past sins that have been forgiven. It is Satan who tries to never let us forget who we were with the hopes we will become that person again.  Do you really want to play the role of Satan?  Whether that person was a thief, murderer, drunk, homosexual, or worse, it does not matter.  They are a new Creation in Christ and we should have more faith in Jesus to cleanse that person than we do in Satan to tempt him back into his sinful ways.  If anything, if we treat former sinners as though they were still sinners we only serve the lead them back into sin.  We should be supporting them, encouraging them, and discipling them and we should not be judging them for sins forgiven by God. 

The fact is that every time we decide not to "like" someone, we are judging that person.  If you think they are not fun enough, you are judging them.  If you think that they have the wrong skin color, you are judging them.  If you think they are ugly, you are judging them.  If you have issues with their past sins, you are judging them. If you think they are too poor for you, you are judging them.  If you think that whatever medical condition they have makes then undesirable, you are judging them.  If you choose for them to not be your friend, you are judging them and having evil thoughts.  And by judging them you are making yourself a hypocrite.   Even worse, you are making yourself a Pharisee.  If was the Pharisees who judged sins forgiven by God.  If was the Pharisees who thought they were better then everyone else.  There should never be a lonely person seeking a friend in a Christian church and shame on us for making that a reality.  Shame on us for ostracizing someone because of their past, spreading gossip to turn people against someone, not inviting someone somewhere because we do not like to be around them, and any other time we make anyone in church feel any less than one of our closest friends.  No matter what, you have Jesus in common and nothing could ever be more important than that.  It is by that one thing in common that you will be spending eternity with that person.  Jesus said that the world would know we were his by our love for one another and that means our love must be a visible tangible love.  You can not witness to the world with our love for one another if we do not even act like we even like one another. 
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:34-35 NKJV

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