Dec. 28, 2017

The Battle We All Must Face

“They don’t like me,” was the tearful comment from a toddler trying to fit into an existing play group. The tears in her eyes and her sad, little face looking up at me said it all. She felt rejected. Regardless of the intent of the other children, this little girl felt shut out and all alone.

I know how she feels. In fact, I believe most of us know exactly how she feels.

Children can be cruel, but guess what? Adults can be just as mean. Whether we intend to reject others or not, our attitude and actions often make other people feel less important than those around them. I am beginning to understand why Jesus grew increasingly frustrated with how people treated one another. In His sermon on the mount, Jesus focused His attention on those who felt left out, rejected, insignificant, misunderstood, and betrayed.

As I mature, both in age and in spirit, I try to remember that none of us are exactly alike. While it feels comfortable to gather in groups that think like us (often called, “churches”), it doesn’t help us learn from others. If we all go to our preferred corners closing our hearts and minds, no progress will be made. It takes a bigger person to extend the branch of forgiveness by offering unconditional friendship.

The most growth I’ve done in my life – again, in age and in spirit – has been to make myself uncomfortable by opening my heart to those who do not think like me. I’ve learned to ask questions. I’m learning to listen. I’m learning to understand that while some see the bible as “black and white,” God created us and sees our lives in color.

Just like the little toddler who sought my comfort when she believed the other kids in the group didn’t like her, I realize there are people in life who do not like me. For one reason or another, we make rash judgements towards others. We typically hold on to those judgments as opposed to trying to create unity. We define those we allow in our inner circle and those we plan to steer clear of in life. Again, its unfortunate that by doing so, we really don’t grow. Our love can only expand so much within church walls. The real growth is in the outside world.

I can already see some of you shaking your head quoting verses that talks about separating ourselves. I don’t read that as “black or white.” I read it as it is spelled out in the Book of Jude. We must be willing to extend Christ’s love to others without getting pulled into their personal sins. Establishing or maintaining a relationship with people who do not think like us is not a sin. I think the greater sin is to remain in our church pews refusing to share Jesus through our lives with others. But, that’s just me and we all know – I’m different.  <smile>

As we exit 2017 and enter 2018, let’s make three lists: 1) Who has rejected us? Pray for them. 2) Who have we offended and how can we make amends? Pray and then act. And, 3) Who have we shut out? How can we extend the olive branch of peace to them? Forgiveness doesn’t mean we have to think like them. Forgiveness means we accept them regardless of what they think of us.

I am looking forward to a fresh start. I am looking forward to making my lists and checking them twice.  I am looking forward to breaking the barriers of bitterness, anger, rejection and hate. Instead of saying, “They don’t like me,” I choose to say, “I’m going to love them anyway whether they like me or not.”