by John Armstrong

I’ve heard it several times recently, I’ve heard it numerous times over the years, and anytime I hear it, it hurts my heart.  I’ve had people confide to me that they love the church and they have a sense that this is where they are supposed to be, yet they don’t feel liked, much less loved or accepted.  They feel out of place.  Maybe that is your experience, if it is, I’m truly sorry.  We know of course, that is not what the Body of Christ is to be like.  However, that is certainly what it is like many times.  You would probably be hard pressed to find a church where no one ever felt out of place to some degree.  There is also the painful truth that some people are difficult to get along with, that is simply part of the human condition.  You’ll find those people in every gathering of human beings you encounter.  Also, there is the possibility that you are such a person.  I am, I know that I’m not always easy to get along with.  Some people find me intimidating, some think I’m too serious, others think I’m too frivolous, some find me hard and cold, others find me warm and caring.  Sometimes I seem engaged, other times I seem aloof.  Now, as I say that, I want you to realize that I’m aware of the different perceptions that I sometimes give people.  I don’t want anyone to think I’m aloof, or cold, or frivolous, but that is a matter of perception.  You would be amazed at how different I perceive people and how they are sometime perceived by others.  There will always be some level of personality clash which is often exacerbated by miscommunication.  The question becomes what do we as Christian people do with this?  Do we go on doing our own thing, liking those people we like and being irritated with those not fitting our idea of what we would like them to be?   Well, you know where I’m going, we’re going to talk about discipleship and being a member of the church.  What did Jesus say to His disciples about their relations with one another?  John 13:34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another.  Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  When Jesus commands you to love each other in the church even as He loves, you can’t get away from that one.  As we have been studying Titus, one of the things that Paul has been teaching is how we love each other in the church has an impact in the watching world.  People see the gospel having its effect and say those people are different.  How we love each other in the church is evangelistic.  That is what Jesus is saying here in v.35.  Part of our growth in grace is getting beyond ourselves and reaching out to others.  These people in the church, whether you “like” them or not, are people created in God’s image and are loved by the Lord.  These are your brothers and sisters in Christ.  Loving them is not an option.  I invite you to join me in praying, “Holy Spirit, please change my heart and make me a willing and capable lover of others.  Help me to love people with the love of Jesus.”  That is a worthy prayer, one that is certainly pleasing to God.  I pray for our church that, as far as it lies within our ability, there will be none here who feel alienated and unloved.