I have been particularly disheartened by myself lately. It would seem that my care for others does not extend far beyond myself. This is a problem. Why? If Christ calls us to be like Him, forsake ourselves, reach others, etcetera, then that hardly makes it right to keep your care, to keep Christ, to yourself. As Christians we have missed the mark in a very key area, which is how we view others and in turn how we care for others. Often as these things do, there have been things in my life that have challenged not only in how I think, but also how I act towards people.
Recently I heard a story about myself, and as these word of mouth things do, it left a negative impression upon me. This story was from a friend and how a friend of that friend did not like me. Based on a few interactions this friend’s friend had with me, she drew the conclusion that if my negatives are what they were, it was not worth it to learn about the positives. Let’s look at the context further. This is a girl, a believing girl who sees or interacts with me for tiny fractions of a day MAYBE once or twice a week, saying another believer is not worth it or is lesser than what they are because of what little she has observed. Fair right? This discouraged me, it angered me, and it all around made me feel sort of worthless. What is my point? My point is that this thing that had been done to me, I myself had been guilty of doing to other people so many times before. Talk about new found perspective. All these awful feelings I had made fellow believers in the past feel I now had to feel for myself. Fortunately, Christ takes over and helps you to forgive just as you have had to seek forgiveness.
This week was one of those weeks. You know the expression “they need a piece of humble pie”, well this week I was not given a piece of humble pie, but more like the entire pie dead center in my face. It is a good rule of thumb to once you see patterns in your life try to see what the Lord maybe be trying to use those patterns to show or teach you. For me that pattern was my continued interactions with people, more particularly people I have a hard time getting along with. What is it about those people you have a hard time dealing with that make it so hard to just deal with? At first I thought the remedy was to ignore them, to overlook them, to cut off all contact as humanly possible in order to resolve the issue. The thing about that method is that it does not really solve the issue, but instead just causes you to ignore it. Imagine you were to place an elephant in your living room, and instead of dealing with the elephant, you cover the elephant with a sheet. You may not be able to see the elephant, but eventually that animal is going to come out and when it does, you are going to have a bigger problem than what you would have to start with.
There were three people this week that showed me the continued need to understand others and more importantly show love in the way Christ would show love. The first of these was the one I tried to ignore. He and I never have seemed to gotten along, and finally it bugged me. Bugged me like Sylvester from “It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad World.” I was getting bugged man! Anyway I allowed myself to be privately annoyed with this guy, ignoring him and never solving the issue. This was not right. As a brother in Christ it is my responsibility to care for that other brother, and while we may not agree, live and serve together all the same. So I told him, and while we have some conversations to come, if we show the care Christ has enabled us to show, then we have all we need for restored fellowship. I had judged this brother based on a few encounters I had with him here and there, which really was not fair. The second person was a friend of my friends. I let my pride get away from me and where it had seemed as if the facts were all there, I did not take into account the person or that persons feels. As it turned out this person knew what I thought and communicated with me in a clear, mature, Christ like way. It was like hitting a wall. Again this goes back to the theme of not knowing anything about the person, and instead of caring for them, the way Christ would, I judged them harshly. Fortunately, because of Christ I was able to correct things with this person, and again you get that awesome fellowship of unity with the people of Christ. The last was the girl I spoke of above. Like I said it disheartened me, but after feeling what I knew those people felt ,and knowing what it was like to be in her place all I could do was forgive. People forgave me even when I did not forgive them, so regardless of how she views me why can I not forgive her. He forgave us so we can forgive others.
As I thought through these things I was reminded of Jonah. The Book of Jonah was my semester long Hermeneutics project so needless to say Jonah was still on my mind. In the book you see a constant theme and that theme is God’s grace and mercy on those not deserving of it. This is seen as God does not kill the pagan mariners in the storm, saves Jonah with a fish when he is drowning, and spares Nineveh of destruction when they repent. What is interesting in all this is that Jonah was a prophet, a man of faith if you will, and instead of showing the love/care of God, he judged people who were no more innocent than he was. This was also an image of Israel and how they had missed the mark in loving others the way God did them. They were meant to be His people, spreading His message, showing His love, yet they did not. A the book closes it leaves with God questioning Jonah and the reader as to why they do not care about people like He does.
Why do we not care about people the way God does, and the way Christ has enabled us. So often, whether myself or others, I have witnessed believers maliciously attacking other believers. WHY?!!!! How can we ever bring Christ to those without Him when we cannot even see Christ in those with Him?! The more I see this in my life before and in the lives of those around me the more it sickens me. We are meant to be God’s means, through Christ, of knowing Him and making Him known, yet we keep Christ to ourselves selfishly without a care for anyone else. My point is this. If you remember nothing else from this post remember this. CARE ABOUT PEOPLE THE WAY CHRIST HAS CARED ABOUT YOU. It is that simple. That may mean going out of your comfort zone in order to understand or get to know someone you may not like, which is good because Christ does not call us to be comfortable. Quit judging people because a few weird things you may see because the reality is that we all have crap in our lives, some people’s are simply more public than others.
In the end it is not worth it to judge fellow believers because as soon as you point your finger you just as quickly have to point it right back at yourself. Sure you cannot be best friends with every Christian, but regardless of whether or not you are you still have to be like Him and love them all the same. We are no better and no more deserving of Christ than anyone else and to view fellow believers as less than Christ means to also act less than Him.