[ The Fellowship of the Believers ]
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Let me say first that this post is not meant to hurt feelings or otherwise create tension between those who are already clearly struggling to be at peace with one another. I have no idea what motivates some behaviors in people and I have no knowledge of the context within which some of their decisions regarding their interpersonal relationships are made. That being said, I’m troubled. I have been attending church for the better part of the last two and a half years and for a period of about six months, I felt like I was absolutely in the right place and that I had a good, caring church family who cared about me as a person and as a fellow believer. Lately, however; something has changed. Lately, I’m noticing that when I go out into our community (a fairly small town) and see one of my fellow brothers or sisters in line at the grocery or shopping at the mall or going to lunch at a restaurant, they simply don’t make any attempt to say hello or even act as though they know me or have ever seen me before in their lives. Had this only happened once or with those whom I didn’t regularly converse in church, it probably wouldn’t have bothered me. But, in truth, when it is someone with whom you’ve been in an eight or ten week Bible Study or that you speak to each and every Sunday when you see them at church, well, that is something that causes me great concern.
This is just my opinion, but shouldn’t we, as believers be trying to encourage non-believers to want what we have? Shouldn’t we be so happy to spot a fellow Christian that we smile and at least say hello? I’m thinking that whenever I see people who seem happy to see one another in public, I always tend to wonder where they might know each other from and what it must be like to have good friends like that in your life. Couldn’t we, as Christians have that same impact on those around us if we were to consistently acknowledge our brothers and sisters in Christ wherever we might see them? It just should not be that a person from your church doesn’t want to speak to you because they have hard feelings against you for not liking the song they sang in church last Sunday or for disagreeing with the Sunday School curriculum. As Christians, especially those in leadership positions in a church, you are supposed to put yourself above those petty disagreements and remember that you are God’s light in this world. He doesn’t care if you disagree with my politics, He wants you to be willing to extend your hand to me as a fellow believer even if you don’t like me. When we treat others as though we can’t stand them, it breeds feelings of hostility, anger, frustration, hurt, and even abandonment in them. And when we are sending those kinds of signals to the people around us, we can expect to get more of that back in return for our good effort.
As someone who was estranged from church in my youth because of petty gossip and cliquishness, I am saddened to see that these were not just problems associated with being young and confused in church. Even at my strongest point when I have felt the most devoted to my God, I cannot understand why one lady in my church refuses to friend me on Facebook. I realize that this is a stupid concern to have, but let’s just get it out there. There is one person with whom I have had numerous conversations and been involved in several Bible Studies with who simply rejected my friendship request. And it wasn’t technical difficulty. She managed to friend several other people and several others from church managed to friend me. This is an example of how one person’s refusal to extend a hand of fellowship to a fellow believer can really drag down the spirit of another person. Not only did I find this hurtful and confusing, but it certainly hasn’t done much to help me maintain a loving attitude toward this lady. And I have seriously struggled with whether or not to confront her and just ask her what problem she has with me. In the end, I figure it really doesn’t matter. But as someone who values the friendships of others and wants to be viewed as a person who can be liked and trusted, it digs at me a little from time to time.
Now, being your friend on Facebook doesn’t make or break my salvation or negate all that God has done for me. It doesn’t make a difference one way or the other in terms of enhancing my personal walk with God. On the other hand, your steadfast reluctance to recognize your brothers and sisters in Christ in any venue should call into question just exactly what you view as being a good reflection of the principles of Jesus Christ in your daily interactions with people, especially those who have attended church with you for a good, long time and have tried to be helpful to you when they could.
I really don’t like to vent these sorts of frustrations with my fellow believers this way, however; I feel that some may have been acting this way for so long that it has become second nature to them and they truly cannot see what is wrong with their behavior. I am by no means perfect. I have so many shortcomings and in my life, have definitely offended people (maybe even as we speak). Sometimes meaning to, sometimes without even realizing I’d done it. But the fact remains, they will know us by our fruit. If you’re handing out sour grapes to everyone you meet or even refusing to hand them to some you’ve already met, what can you expect in the way of relationships? How can you possibly be a good steward of God’s word when you pick and choose those with whom you will even exchange a benign greeting in passing?
I’ve met so many people who tell me that they will never go to church again because of the way they have been treated by so-called Christians. My first response to them has been to share my experience as a youth and then to let them know that everyone makes mistakes and everyone is human. Christians aren’t perfect, they are just people who are striving to (or at least are supposed to be striving to) love others in the way that God loves them. Granted, it isn’t always easy to love people. Some days I look around and think, “Really, God?” And I know that He is shaking His head at me as He tries to remind me of the times when I wasn’t so lovely. None of us are so worthy that we should ever withhold our light from others. None of us are so holy that we should ever think we are too good to associate with “that woman” or “that man” in our church who doesn’t quite do things the way we think they should do them. God brings together all the pieces in our church homes for a reason. He knows what He means to do with us. He knows which people will help to refine us and which people we are to impact. When we make a conscious choice to ignore or otherwise exclude those with whom we’ve been called to fellowship, we are in essence throwing a little temper tantrum and telling God that we aren’t going to “play with” those people because we don’t like them. In that instance, I’d say we ought to be fully prepared for the spanking that comes with that kind of disobedience.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
~2 Corinthians 13:14~