Most of us Christians seem to be the same in regard to those with whom we associate. We tend to find others who are like us. I think that is one reason we have so many different denominations in the organized church. We cannot agree on doctrine, interpretation of the Bible and many other subjects, so we tend to congregate together with people who most think the same as we do. And usually, once we find like-minded friends, we get comfortable in those groups and would prefer no new people want to join.
My wife and I had this happen a couple of times with one particular fellowship. Several home groups had been organized over time and when we came along, as new people in the “church”, we thought it would be good to get involved. My wife called the home group leaders of two different groups to get information, and both times she heard a voice on the other end of the phone that very obviously was not thrilled that someone new wanted to come into their group. Needless to say, we did not join either group.
It is sad that we Christians, who should be known for our love for one another, still pick and choose who we want in our group. We only want to be friends with those who feel and think like us.
Even among organized churches, we see separation. You can have a Methodist, Baptist and Presbyterian church on 3 out of 4 corners, and people go in and out of their respective denomination and never smile or wave at someone going into the other. Normally we would not think of merging together as one in Christ because those across the street think differently than we do (and I know there are a few exceptions). For those of us who are outside the walls of the institutional church, we can meet together with a few others at a restaurant on a Wednesday night, and as the Pentecostal people start coming in after service, all we want to do is look at them strange and make sly remarks. Where is the love and acceptance in that? And this is among fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. This is not even mentioning how we treat those who do not know God or who do not even believe God exists.
I really think that being more Christ-like may not mean being more holy, or closer to being perfect, it may mean hanging out with people who are a lot less perfect. Jesus was known for associating with people who the religious crowd had no interest. They were the people who never dreamed of being called a friend of God, or attending the local fellowship, or even getting a smile from someone. They were the outcasts, those that religious people did not want to associate with or even have a conversation.
I’ve noticed most people tend to focus more on being like someone else they know and admire, rather than being more like Christ. I think it is easier to be more like a friend because deep down we feel we can measure up, or it is possible to achieve being like another person. We can see the mistakes and shortcomings in others, and we usually feel we are just as good as they are…or better.
That fact is, it is easier being like another person. We feel we are unable to attain being like Jesus. In our own strength, that is so true. The good thing is, Christ does not expect us to live in our own strength. He said it is not good for man (human, both men and women) to be alone. For this reason, he provided a help-mate for us. He sent the Holy Spirit to be our strength, teacher, comforter and guide. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, and the love of Christ within us, we can be more like Jesus as we learn to love and accept everyone.
So many times, we want to be more like Mike, or Jim or William because they are people we admire and want to be like, mainly because they think a lot like us and do things we would want to do.
Of course being like Jesus would mean we would love and accept people most Christians want to avoid and stay away from, just as in the parable of the Good Samaritan. We want to pass by on the other side of the street rather than show love and compassion to one of ‘those’ people.
Jesus said to love our neighbor. We agree with that as long as our neighbor is like Mike, or Jim or William. The bad thing is that if our neighbor is a person we consider an outcast of society, or someone who is involved in things we think are wrong, we do not want anything to do with them. Yet Jesus did not say love your neighbor if they think like you, are pleasant to be around, are Christians of the same denomination. No, our neighbor is everyone we come in contact with throughout our day, no matter who they are, what their lifestyle or belief and no matter what others think of them.
Our job is not to condemn others and point out their sins and mistakes. Our life is to be like Christ, loving others, accepting others and letting them see the love the Father has for them, knowing that we were no different. God loved us, and died for us while we were yet sinners.
Why is it that after accepting God’s love and forgiveness for ourselves, we do not want to offer the same to our fellow human beings?
By the power and love of the Holy Spirit within us, we can hang out with people we never dreamed we would on our own. The love of Christ can work through us, helping us accept others and love them just the way they are. That does not mean we have to participate in everything they do, we do not have to agree with their lifestyle, but we can love them and accept them as they are, knowing that Christ did the same thing, and still does through us.
A good article by Ronnie McBrayer with a different look on this subject can be read here: