My previous blog post, “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” elicited quite a few responses.
The biggest questions seemed to be directed at how to deal with those people you just
can’t be friends with? What do you do as Christian when you realize there are people
in your life that you just don’t like? How do you reconcile your feelings, when Scripture
tells us to love everyone? This is a hard subject. I like hard subjects, because they make
me think about how to apply the truth of Scripture to my own life when my feelings fail to
naturally emulate God’s commands. I'll discuss these in a series of upcoming posts,
because it's an important subject to examine.
So, let’s talk about it...
As a Christian who struggles to meet almost any of the standards that I feel God has laid before me, let me go ahead and admit that there are people that I just really don’t like. I’m not talking about politicians, news commentators, sports figures, or delusional third world dictators. Sadly, I’m talking about people that I know – people who are in my life everyday. It’s sad, but it’s the truth. Be careful not to judge my honesty to harshly, fellow Christian, because it’s the truth in your life, as well. So what do we do when we find this dislike emerge from our heart for another?
A really good initial step is to simply be quiet, and be very quiet...very quickly!
I would say this first step should be taken before any other, lest our own witness and character be destroyed before we allow God to change our hearts. Sometimes the best action is found in closing a mouth that contains a sinful tongue…an instrument capable of great harm.
Proverbs 18:21 warns us that, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”
It’s easy for anyone to develop a distaste for another, and it should be very hard to admit that distaste/dislike in public, but it’s not – is it? For a Christian who should be loving the world around them (John 15:12), we should be very quick to “hold our tongue” in the propagation of our own unChristlikeness toward another. Be aware our opinions of someone else will assist in the formation of the opinion others will hold of them. And, therein, we find a HUGE problem, because we don’t prefer our personal feelings of dislike to go unaccompanied. They get lonely. Instead, we prefer to develop allies for the cause. Allies bring justification to our own bad feelings, and it’s always easier when “no one else likes them either.” We like to be judge and jury, specifically of the public discourse…but we should be extremely careful as we seek to spread the newest "bad word" about others...
Luke 6:37 tells us, “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven…”
We have a responsibility to not blur the lines of someone’s character just because we may not like them. If we know they’re a thief, or a murderer, then we should speak up, but we should be very careful to not malign another simply because we have a dislike for who they are. Remember, we're not perfect, despite the very high regard we have for ourselves. We'll discuss this more in later posts on this topic.
Jesus experienced these personal and malicious attacks when dealing with the Pharisees and Sadducees. They were quick to publicly voice their dislike of Christ and the way He chose to live His life. They lived for moments where they could diminish His character and make Him look small to the world around Him. They were bullies in fine clothing, and they assumed they were speaking from a point of authority. Jesus just made them look foolish. We should be careful when we speak negatively about others in public; the character being diminished may be that of our own. As we read these accounts in Scripture, it should put a bad taste in our mouth for this type of behavior, but it doesn’t always.
When we dislike someone, it’s always the first and best step to keep that opinion to ourselves.
Ephesians 4:29 – “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
James 4:11-12 – “Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?”
Matthew 5:22 – “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”
So, the first step, the best first step…just be quiet as a lamb. In our silence, we will preserve our own character and not sin against another. The world doesn't need our opinion; the world needs to see Jesus in us.
Pray for the ability to control your tongue, even when you have a captive audience awaiting your slanderous thoughts on someone you don’t like…because that’s what they are, right...slanderous? It sounds bad, but let’s be sure to put our “bad” words, spoken toward another, into the correct perspective. We're all guilty, and we could all benefit from some Christlike moments of silence.
Just a couple of questions before we end Part I...
1. When you don't like someone else, does everyone around you know it?
If this is the case, beware. You've already compromised your character and witness, so it's now time for the damage assessment and repair. Again, the first step is to just stop talking...specifically about others. Our opinions are not always necessary...frankly, unless we're asked, they are normally not necessary at all, and seldom are they really appreciated. Keep your negativity to yourself.
2. Do people come to you with an expectation of receiving your bad opinion on everyone else?
If this is the case, congratulations...you're a leader! You're just not the leader you may think you are. People will always seek out some drama and negativity. The human race seems to love the allure of some hurtful gossip. It's as if we "like to dislike." Don't be the leader of that. Don't do or say things that cause your brother to stumble.
Romans 14:13 – "Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother."
3. How often do you have to talk silently (to those who will listen) to hide your mean-spirited conversation from others?
If you can't say it aloud, for everyone to hear, then it's probably best left unsaid. I'm so guilty of this, myself. When you find yourself huddled in a corner, speaking in hushed tones, your conversation is probably beneath your calling. Again, stop talking.
I wish I could say that I don’t struggle with these thing, but I do. Most do, but that doesn’t make it right. So, the first step...bridle the tongue. It may be like trying to wrestle a bear to the ground and hold him there, but it's a fight well worth your time.
I wish you God’s best for your day! I’ll continue this post soon…
Keith Beatty is a Worship, Missions and Media Pastor living in North Alabama. He's excited and very humbled to be a follower of Jesus Christ!