My last post involved the first step in dealing with our dislike of others. That step was to simply “be quiet” regarding our bad feelings. Our dislike of someone else is no one's business, even if we want to make it their business. We love to talk, specifically about things and people that we don’t care much for. Consequently, when our inner feelings about someone manifests into actual audible words, we begin to do damage to their character and ours. We may not fully realize the amount of damage that can actually be done when we speak poorly of others. We can damage their lives, and we may destroy our own witness in the process. More often than not, our lives, and the lives of others, would be much better if we just talked less...and maybe thought more...in silence.
Assuming we can “hold captive” our words, we still find ourselves with feelings of dislike.
So, what’s the next step?
If we’re disciples of Christ, and we’re praying about how we engage the world in a manner that emulates God’s character and plan, then we must examine what’s on our inside, just under our shiny Christian exterior – and bring it under control.
Let’s look at a verse…
II Corinthians 10:5 – “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…”
The context of II Corinthians 10 is spiritual warfare. Have you ever viewed your dislike of someone else as a form of spiritual warfare? If not, now is the time, because that can absolutely be the case. Our minds and our thoughts are the frontline on the battleground of spiritual warfare, and they are often our weakest fortification. How’s your defense looking? Can we take our very thoughts captive to become subservient to God's will for us?
Satan will go to exhaustive degrees to punish our earthly life. If he can establish a small dissension between us and others, he will. The subtle feelings of dislike for another that form in our mind can quickly lead us to develop stronger feelings of dislike, easily being a catalyst for hatred in the long run. Dislike is the seed of hatred; it’s often the seed of gossip and careless words, of which we will be held accountable (Matthew 12:36), and dislike brings severe distraction into our walk with God, making our day to day thoughts about the negative. These can all come about because we’ve carelessly allowed Satan to plant the seeds of dislike into our heart and mind.
I Peter 5: 8-9a – “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith…”
The instruction of I Peter 5 is directed towards those who “shepherd the flock,” but it’s great instruction for us all, because we all help to shepherd someone…specifically public opinion. Let’s be clear to understand that Satan, in his prowling around us like a lion, with a mind set on devouring, is looking for weak points in our walk with God and our feelings toward others. He only has to catch us distracted for a moment to implant some dislike into our heart, a dislike that is easily watered and ready to grow. When that distraction/weak point is identified, the spiritual warfare begins in earnest. Therefore, we should be determined to know and follow the instruction given us in I Peter 5:8 – to “be sober-minded and watchful,” expecting Satan to act, because we can be assured that he will. And he will act, or attack, our weakest areas. He loves to attack the areas of our life that he knows will easily lead us into bad behavior – behavior that we find easy to justify due to our strong opinions, whether those opinions be right or wrong, Godly or Godless. All he has to find is something that we don't like, or something that our friends don't like. Be careful of your friends opinions, they may also lead you astray. They can be tools of spiritual warfare.
“Sober-minded.” If you’re an alcoholic, it’s best to not surround yourselves with others who like to find the bottom of a bottle of spirits. If you’re prone to dislike (and you probably are), it’s best to not surround yourselves with those who like to talk about their problems and dislikes of others. We can quickly become “drunk’ with negative input regarding others, talking about our dislike of small things, or things that don’t even matter in our life – things we just like to find disagreement with. In this inebriated state, our focus is off the battlefield of spiritual warfare in our own life, and it becomes more concentrated on something damaging to others – "friendly fire," in some cases.
It’s interesting to note that I Peter 5:5b-6 tells us, “…Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you…”.
This is direction given to those who are younger, in helping them relate to and learn from their elders; consequently, this verse speaks directly to my point. If we walk in humility towards each other, not seeking to, in pride, wage the war of judgement or personal dislike against everyone we have a disagreement with, God will interject grace into our lives (v.5) and exalt us (v.6). I could use a little less negative and a lot more grace in my life, how about you?
There are many people we will encounter in our lives who do bad things that are dislikable. Some of those things may bring hardship to us, but many of these things aren’t even “bad”…we just don’t care for them, even though they have nothing to do with us at all. They don’t alter our life in any way; they are not sinful, and they don’t hurt anyone – but, because we don’t like them, we choose to make them a part of our life through our thoughts. It’s often just a control issue. We can’t expect to control everyone to fit into a mold that brings us comfort. We’ve not been allotted that kind of authority. Our attempts to claim that authority leads to further distraction, making us very weak on the battlefield of spiritual warfare.
We should be careful to examine the real reasons why we dislike someone, and we should caution ourselves to not be reactionary, but responsive, because our dislike may be fueled by the simple, but very real, reality of spiritual warfare. Examine every thought for origin and worth. Is it from God? Is it justifiable under the shadow of Scripture? Or, is it grounded in our sin nature? If it's grounded in our own personal opinions of right and wrong, or like and dislike, devoid of Scriptural foundation, then it's probably being fed by Satan through spiritual warfare. When you realize that, know that you're in the battle.
When feelings of dislike arise, first, don’t speak them. Second, examine the nature and cause of the dislike. Do your issues of dislike involve you directly? Is it something that brings physical hardship to you, or is it more a matter of your opinion being challenged? Like I said in my last post, we’re not always right. Satan uses our desire to always be correct as motivation for bad feelings, and often "bad talking."
Our mind is a battlefield. Guard it, specifically from feelings of disdain towards others. We’re called to live in peace, and peace with others begins in our own mind and heart.
Romans 12:14-18 says, "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”
Step #1 - Stop talking!
Step #2 - Don’t lose the battle of spiritual warfare!
We'll continue soon!
God Bless, friends!
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!