by Brian G. Bettes
For those who are on Facebook, we know what it means to “unfriend” someone. On occasion, you will accept someone into your “inner circle” by accepting their friend request, only to find out that they are a person that you have little or nothing in common with. Maybe you knew them in college, but since you saw them last, 20-plus years ago, time and circumstances have led you down different paths. As such, your views on marriage, children, morality, politics, or just life in general are polar opposite. After reading their posts on your feed, you realize that, not only do you have nothing in common, but, you really don’t have the time or the energy to read their “ridiculousness.” The typical response? Simply “unfriend” them!
I understand that we all must be responsible with our time as it is indeed the most precious commodity we have. Few of us have the energy to waste on meaningless things that are constantly competing to consume it. I also understand there is a time to “unfriend” someone who continues to be vulgar, rude, offensive, or abrasive, even after asking them to not be so. However, I have couple of questions:
First, how quickly do we “unfriend” someone just because we don’t like the way they say things, and because it is easy? Do we at least try to engage them in a healthy manner first?
Next, do we take our “unfriend”ly Facebook attitude into our church congregations? Are we willing to “unfriend” our brother quickly and easily over petty misunderstandings, or even worse, because their personality is different than ours? Do we display that same attitude with others who are in a different church organization, or even denomination, than we are?
Let’s face it. Not everyone we go to church with is someone we enjoy investing time in. Yet Jesus left us a command to love one another as He has loved us (John 13:34). Jesus loves all the disciples His Father calls and gives to Him to work with (John 17:20).
There is no indication in Scripture that, of those who were at that final meal before His death and heard Him give the commandment to love one another, He was “just putting up with them.” No, Jesus loved all His disciples when He walked this earth, and He loves all His disciples today. Remember, He gave His life for us (John 15:13)! Do we follow His example, or do we pick and choose whom we will show love to, and whom we will not (1John 3:16)?
God calls a lot of different personalities. This is clearly shown by the disciples who were chosen to become apostles. It is an interesting study to delve into the background of each apostle as a guide to help see “what made them tick.” There is not the space here to do a full bio on each of them. However, here is an abbreviated look at some of the men the Father gave to Jesus to work with as His “advance leadership team.”
Peter’s legacy is one of being passionate, bold, impetuous, very protective, and sometimes outright unpredictable (Matthew 14:28; John 18:10). On the other hand, Andrew his brother seemed to be more balanced and thought driven. He was a disciple of John the Baptist before being called by Jesus, but was early to recognize Jesus as the Messiah (John 1:40-41). Both were fishermen.
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, named by Jesus the “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17), seem to have been quick-tempered, fiercely loyal, yet very personable. Jesus appeared to have a particular affinity toward John’s personality as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 19:26). They too were fishermen.
Thomas, who was thought to be a twin, was stated to be one who needed to see before believing (John 20:25). I have often wondered (jokingly) whether Missourians are descended from Thomas since it is named the “Show Me” state. Jesus identified Bartholomew, also known as Nathanael, as “having no guile” (John1:47). In today’s parlance, we would say he was straightforward, openly “tells things as he sees them,” and “pulls no punches.”
Matthew was a tax collector, which was looked down upon by the Jews of the day (Matthew 9:9). Tax collectors were Jews who did the bidding of the Roman government by collecting taxes for them from their own people. Think about the kind of personality he must have had, and the abuse he must have been used to taking, to do that job.
Then there was Simon the Canaanite, also known as Simon Zelotes, or, the Zealot (Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13). Zealots were a special breed of Jews. The Zealots looked at Roman rulership in Israel as an occupation of their land; therefore, they tried to incite the Jews to revolt against them and eradicate them. A Zealot would just as soon stab a Roman soldier in a dark ally and leave him for dead as look at him. This is the mentality that Simon Zelotes “brought to the party.” You can only imagine how well he and Matthew, the tax collector, got along at first.
I will not say much about the other apostles, other than to say, given the rest of the crew, I am sure each had his own special personality “quirks” that he brought to the mix.
My point is, God calls all kinds of people, from all kinds of backgrounds, with all kinds of different personalities into His Church. I suppose it would be nice if everyone thought like I do, or at least agreed that everything I say and do is right and wonderful. Umm…yeah…! I can’t even get my wife to agree to that, and she actually likes and loves me. Good luck with getting everyone in the Church to agree to that!
When we go to Church and fellowship with our spiritually bonded family, aren’t we being a bit unrealistic to ask that everyone be made in an image that is comfortable for us? If someone has different ideas, is too bombastic, too expressive, too serious, too dogmatic, or too quiet and demure for our taste, isn’t it a bit unrealistic to expect them to not be themselves anymore, just to please us? Is it too much to ask that we try to at least look at things from their perspective, and see if there is value in what God is teaching them, just as He is us through our own life experiences?
Are we so selfish, and do we think so highly of ourselves, that when we “don’t like them” because of who they are, we simply “unfriend” them mentally, and avoid them physically (Romans 12:3; Philippians 2:3-4)? Or do we look at them as our Father who called them does, realizing they are a work in progress too, just as we are.
It is important to humble ourselves before God, recognizing what an incredible weight of debt was forgiven us, and what it took for that forgiveness to happen (Romans 5:8). Our Brother lost his life because of YOU, and because of ME! If we are willing to honest with ourselves, and most of us struggle to be this honest, but, we aren’t such a “hot item” ourselves (1 Corinthians 1:26-28).
I once read a statement that said, “What other people think of you is none of your business.” How true! Why? It would be very discouraging if we knew what other people really thought of us most of the time. If we frame our actions around what other people think of us, doesn’t that lessen the focus of what we know about what God thinks of us and is trying to accomplish in us (1 John 3:1-3)? Have you ever found out what someone else thinks of you and realized that, because of something you said or did that they didn’t like, they, without knowing your heart, judged you as a person, imputing motives and intentions that were never there; and they did so in a way that really has nothing to do with who you are? I have had that happen to me recently, and it hurts—a lot!
Have we ever judged someone else’s character based on what we heard about them (it’s called gossip, folks, and God hates it! Leviticus 19:16; Proverbs 18:8, 26:22)? Maybe what we heard is true; maybe it isn’t. If it is true, do we know whether that person repented whole-heartedly before God or not? If they have, they are clean before Him (Isaiah 1:18; Psalm 103:12), yet we are still sitting in self-righteous judgment of them when He is not. Have I done that to others in my lifetime? I am embarrassed to say, I know I have. Shame on me!
I would like to recommend that we pay close attention to our thoughts and attitudes toward one another. Let’s be kindly affectionate to one another as the Scripture says (Romans 12:10). Let’s make sure we are not usurping Christ’s authority as the only One to have been given judgment by the Father (John 5:22). It is pretty easy, and much more comfortable, to judge another Man’s servant than to judge ourselves, isn’t it (Romans 14:4)?
It doesn’t take much to fall into the trap of looking down our noses at others with “the stink-eye,” evaluating every step they take and every word they speak, measuring it against our own understanding of what we think a Christian should look like. Chances are, if that same ruler were applied to us, we wouldn’t measure up to our own standard (Matthew 7:2).
It is imperative we learn how to love one another with kindness, patience, gentleness, sincerity, and honesty, as Jesus does us (John 15:12). Do we think we will be a member of the Family of God, or a part of the Bride of Jesus, if we can’t even get along with our human brothers and sisters now in this life? Wouldn’t it be horrible if, because we have so easily “unfriended” our brothers and sisters today, that when Jesus returns, we are the ones to be “unfriended” by our Elder Brother (Matthew 7:23)?