No matter how nice you are, there’s always going to be people who manage to get on your nerves. It can be co-workers, supervisors, neighbors, frenemies, or even family members over the dinner table during Christmas. But what if there are people at your church that rub you the wrong way?
Sadly, too many people will just up and leave their church if there’s somebody(s) there they don’t like. You can’t choose your family, it’s hard to find a new job, but there’s always another church down the street, so it’s easy to just go there instead. That makes me sad because congregations should be strong communities, where relationships are important, and you wouldn’t just drop it all because something annoyed you. Church fellowships should be more important and holy than that.
An article I read recently pointed out that in the Twelve Disciples, Jesus called unpopular people that might have even been un-liked by the other disciples. Matthew was a tax collector (Matthew 10:3), and nobody liked tax collectors because they stole money and collaborated with the Romans. Then there was Simon the Zealot (Luke 6:15). Zealots were a radical political movement that was even violent at times in their attempts to overthrow Roman control. Simon would’ve considered Matthew a traitor, and Matthew would’ve considered Simon a terrorist. If they met on the street, they would’ve despised each other.
But Jesus chose each of them to be a part of his leadership team. They ate together, traveled and camped together. They even still prayed together after Jesus ascended into heaven (Acts 1:13). That’s impressive. Whatever their personal feelings, they didn’t divide the group.
Jesus knew what he was doing when he called those two and forced them to live together. He knew that it would be all right as long as he remained the center of the group. He knew that the way we learn to be loving, grace-giving, forgiving, and patient people is not by avoiding people we don’t like or who offend us at even the deepest level, but by being together. He also wanted the 12 to model what life in the Kingdom looks like–when the dividing walls of hostility are torn down and the differences between us don’t matter as much as having Christ among us.
That’s a good challenge for us. It’s really tempting for me to just avoid people all-together if I don’t like them or find them offensive. But the work of the Holy Spirit in Acts shows that God wants to overcome human barriers. If Jesus is really at the center of our group, we should be trying hard to make connections instead of avoid them, even with people who annoy us.