I learnt a very important lesson in church yesterday and it opened my eyes to moments in the past where I have missed out on good friendships because I could not bring myself to accept some negative traits in people.
My pastor has been preaching about getting connected to the body of Christ for some weeks now. Yesterday, he focused on how the church is a family. One thing he said that really got me thinking was that acceptance does not mean approval. He said many people disconnect from church once they see a negative attitude in some people. They say because person A is rude they won’t talk to anyone in church and they do that even outside church.
That statement reminded me of myself a few years ago. Once I noticed a negative trait in someone or should I say a trait that I did not like, I would immediately switch off from that person and keep them at arms length. I had a lot of drama in my life at the time and I did not need anyone with baggage coming to add more drama into my life. Sometimes it was just a statement that the person would have made and I would conclude instantly, “Me and this girl can’t be friends. She lacks discretion.” I cannot count the number of people I shut out because of that. I ended the friendship before it started and for those I was already friends with, I kept my distance and eventually, the friendships fizzled out.
How I wish I knew better.
No one is perfect you see. The fact is people will always hurt you; inside and outside church. It does not necessarily mean that they are bad people; they are just humans. End of discussion. You also hurt people, most times unintentionally I hope. If you hurt people intentionally then you need the love of Jesus to radiate through your heart. You let people down and you also have your own bad traits. How would you feel if your friends suddenly cut off from you because of one of your bad traits? I’m sure you won’t be happy about it.
Let’s learn how to tolerate one another despite our differences. Nigeria is the way it is because people have not learnt to tolerate one another. You can accept people without approving their behaviour. You already do that anyway for family members. I cannot count the number of times my mother has done things to upset me and I am sure she also has a list of things I have done to upset her. Yet, she is still my mother. I don’t have any duplicate mother anywhere. The things that used to make me resent her in the past no longer stir up those feelings. I have come to accept her the way she is. I have worked around that. Now the things that she would do that get under my skin no longer get to me. I have also learnt to control my mouth. I cannot remember the last time I had a heated argument with my mother. It was years ago I’m sure.
It is God that has brought me to this point. The more you study the word, the more you understand that you are an imperfect person saved by grace. If God can love you even while you were a sinner, why can’t you love that person in your church that has a bad mouth? Show them some love. Still care for them even though they say hurtful words. That is how a family operates. And do you know that showing that person love can lead to a change in their behaviour? I have seen it happen so many times.
So please don’t run away from fellowshipping with people in your church because they do things that you don’t like. Accept them. Love them still. That is how God wants us to behave towards one another. He is a God of love remember?