Wednesday, December 19, 2007

When People "Rub You the Wrong Way"

Did ya ever meet or spend time with someone who makes you feel like THIS?!?

And did that person happen to be a professing Christian, maybe even a part of your church?

Well then, this post is for you!

I was just listening to a sermon from the pastor in the church where I "grew up" spiritually. (Not where I went to church as a kid, but where we started going when I was 15. When Doug & I moved back to that area, we returned to that church... so it's where I've grown up spiritually.) And can I just say here that I LOVE mp3s and downloadable sermons?! Sometime, I'll have to do a post about all the great online resources where you can get spiritual "meat" for FREE!!!

Anyway, back to my pastor. His sermon was all about having patience with people who get under your skin. Particularly, it was about people in the Body of Christ. Those people that go to church with you that drive you bananas every Sunday. The lady in the choir who seems so showy with her expressions and movements. The man who never manages to have a nice word to say to anyone. The lady who gabs and jabs and never talks about anything of significance. The guy who, every Sunday, shakes your hand and occupies your time in a shallow conversation for WAY too long while you could be talking to friends. The lady who looks down her nose at everyone around her and makes you feel inferior and judged. We've all met at least one person in the Body of Christ who makes us feel totally annoyed and/or frustrated.

And to hear my pastor tell it, it's good for us. Colossians 3 talks about how we really live the Christian life... what we're to "take off" (like moral impurity) and what we're to "put on" : compassion, kindness, meekness, humbleness of mind ... and then in verse 12, he mentions "patience".

There are two words for patience that show up in the New Testament:

  • The first is for patience under trials... for when you're under a heavy burden. It's a kind of patience driven by hope that God is using this trial to accomplish something, knowing that God will bring me through it on the other side with stronger faith. But this is not the word that is used here.
  • The second word, which is the one used in this passage, is for patience with people. This passage is all about interacting with other people, so that's not surprising that this would be the word used for patience in this section.
He said it this way:
"Now you see, God has designed our lives in such a way that certain qualities can only be built in our life by having irritating people to come into our life. ... So you're gonna have some irritating people in your life. Sometimes, they'll be in your family. ...Sometimes it'll be somebody you married, and you didn't know how irritating they were when you married 'em. ... So you may find that one of the irritating people with whom you need to have patience is your spouse. It may be your parents; it may be your children. But then, it may be within the body of Christ. And I really believe that's what Paul has in mind here. He's talking about relationships within the body."
Consider how many people love a church until they get to know the people in it. He quoted an old poem,

"To dwell above with those we love,
That will be glory.

But to dwell below with those we know,

Well, that's a different story."

You may not deal with this if you are not interacting deeply with people at church. But when you really dig in and actually get to know people on an authentic level, and when you are vitally plugged in to a local church body, as my pastor said,
"Praise God, YOU will be one of somebody's irritating people. Now I know all of you were thinking, 'well, if I do that, I'm going to come across some irritating people,' and that's true. But you're gonna BE someone's irritating person too."
Offenses are going to come, because:
1- I'm a sinner
2- You're a sinner
3- That is the way that God has designed for growth to come in each of our lives.

He said that the way patience manifests itself is this:
"When I'm around someone that irritates me, how do I have patience with them?"

1- "Remember that God has been patient with you." (Think of all the sinful and silly/stupid things you've done in your life, and yet God has been patient with you and not thrown you away.)
2-"There are always factors that you don't understand in other people's lives." (The person who REALLY drives you crazy "probably has things going on way back in their past that you don't know about... and there may be some factors as recent as 30 minutes ago that you don't know about.")
3- "Remember that you are not the Holy Spirit. There are only THREE seats in the Trinity, and you don't occupy any one of them." The Holy Spirit convicts people. YOUR job is to pray for people and love them... there is a time for admonishing one another with Scripture- but that should be done if you have built a relationship and if you come with a prayerful humble attitude... not with bitterness or frustration in our hearts.)
4- "Remember that God is working in their life." Remember Saul of Tarsus? He started out killing Christians- NOBODY in the church liked him. "Yet God had him as a chosen vessel" to do His work. So when somebody is just irritating the tar out of you, just think, you know, God might marvelously use them. He is at work in their life!

He ended with this... it is nearly impossible for GOOD to come out of someone telling someone else off. But there may be times when, with relationship and love intact, a scriptural admonishment (using the Word of God to share truth in love) may be in order. But, he warns us with a couple final thoughts:

"Be careful about giving someone a piece of your mind might not have that much to spare!"

- Be biblical, not emotional. -

- You're not responsible for THEIR choices. -
- You ARE responsible for YOUR choices. -

I hope this encourages and challenges you as it did me. Anything you'd like to share or add?


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