“We could learn a lot from crayons: some are sharp, some are pretty, some are dull, some have weird names, and all are different colors but they all have to learn to live in the same box.” I don’t know who originated this quote, but I’m sure he was referring to church.
After 35 years of pastoring the same church, I am still surprised when folks leave because they can’t get along with others in the fellowship. Often times people leave for logical and healthy reasons, but sometimes they just shoot out the door and never come back—and this after calling Father’s House their home for several years.
Working through difficult relationships takes commitment and work, and most folks don’t want church to be work—it’s the one spot in their busy week where they can rest and receive. I disagree. I view church as the training ground for relationships for the rest of eternity future. That is not exactly restful or easy.
I can also say that after 35 years in the same church, I am still learning how to get along with people in a healthy manner. I know I am dysfunctional and so are the people I fellowship with—that’s why we need Jesus. Most of us aren’t even aware of our dysfunctions—we’ve each lived with our abnormalities so long, we think they are normal. It’s always the other guy who is the problem—not me! But that’s the point—people aren’t the problem; what a person thinks and does is the problem.
It is hard to separate people from their actions— to love people and address their wrong thinking and actions in a healthy manner. This takes learning new relationship skills. It means having the heart of Jesus for an individual and seeking to communicate with him or her in healthy ways. Sometimes sin is involved and needs to be addressed, but always from a heart of compassion and a desire to draw closer to Jesus and to each other.
Does this mean that we never leave a church because of relationship problems? No. Sometimes spiritual abuse is a factor and spiritual authorities don’t want to recognize and work through such actions. I’ve known pastors that shouldn’t be pastoring. I’ve also seen the accusation of spiritual abuse used as an excuse by those who don’t want to work on their authority issues.
People are people and do people things. Jesus died for such people. Are we willing to lay down our lives to build relationship with folks we consider to be “difficult”? Are we willing to own the fact that we can be “difficult” at times too? What are your thoughts?
In Him together, Susan Gaddis