I am a pretty adventurous person. I like to get out, try new things, meet new people, stretch the boundaries. But even with an independent personality, I still want people to like me…just like everyone else. Sometimes we build up facades or walls because of past hurt, claiming that we do not care what other people think, and we each have some non-negotiables on which we will take a social, political or relational stand, but by-in-large we try to put our best foot forward so that people will respect and like us. Deep within this desire is an underlying pride. We do not want people to like us simply because we want to be friends with everyone, we want affirmation. We want praise. We want people to admire, think well of and build us up.
As believers, is it right and good to build one another up. Scripture regularly admonishes us to put the needs of the body before our own (James 1.27ff), to push one another on to holiness (Heb 10.24), and husbands should love their wives and wives should respect their husbands (Eph 5.22-25). Leaders within the church should be people of good reputation and Jesus says that the world will know that we are Christians because of our love – which means we honor and respect one another (2 Tim 3, John 13.35).
However, as believers, we must remember and be convicted of the fact that there is no righteousness in and of ourselves and that we desperately need a savior (Rom 3.10ff). When we are saved, Christ switches places with us – taking our condemnation and giving us a covering of His righteousness. Because of this fact, we can and should glory in the victory that God grants us over sin in our lives, but we should also be the most humble of people. When we recognize our guilt, and when we comprehend the cost of the sacrifice required to save us, we will become exceedingly humble. We see our worthlessness and the weight of our salvation, and are left as the beneficiary of a completely undeserved gift and inheritance.
True Christians are thankful. True Christians are humble. True Christians know from where they came, and praise God for their priceless gift and all progress made in dying to sin. True Christians offer abundant grace to one another, recognizing the fact that we are all in the battle against our flesh and push one another on to die to the flesh and sin. True Christians recognize the deceit and horror of sin and do not make peace with it in their lives or in other’s lives and purposefully walk together to remove sin from our lives so that we can honor God, all with a humble attitude knowing our own weakness.
However, there are non Christians who infiltrate the Church. There are also non Christians in our daily lives: coworkers, family members, neighbors, people on the street, etc. There are also Christians who have fallen into sin and harbor bitterness and resentment in their hearts. It will happen in each of our lives that there comes a day when someone does not like us.
How should we respond?
First of all, we must examine the situation to see if we have sinned against this person and make every effort to apologize and rectify the situation. If we are left without resolution and the other person still has a hard heart against us, then we have an intricate and beautiful situation. Jesus teaches us to love our enemies (Matt 5.44). He also teaches us that when someone will not receive us and the Gospel we proclaim, we should walk away and not waste our energy (Matt 10.14). Lastly, He teaches us that if someone proclaims to be a believer and yet continues in sin (in this situation, harbors bitterness in his heart), to completely disassociate with him and remove him from the church (Matt 18.15-17).
But in all of this, our heart must remain humble. How do we do that? By remembering our own guilt and the weight of the unmerited gift of salvation we have received. Charles Spurgeon said simply,
“If any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him, for you are worse than he thinks you to be.”
– Charles Spurgeon
If any one person thinks ill of us, it is not because he knows the depths of our depravity. It is because he knows a small amount of it. This nonbeliever has never come to understand forgiveness for himself, and thus still judges those around him with a human judgment and even if the offense was a misunderstanding, we remain humble by remembering God’s gift of salvation while we were His enemies (Rom 5.10). Instead of responding in pride, we should always respond in humility. If someone makes a character assessment, we should examine ourselves to see if it is true, ask Jesus to change us, and remember our guilt before Him – relying on Him to change us! Once we have made every effort to rectify the situation, however, we move on and remember that God looks down and sees the blood of Jesus covering our sin and we are righteous in His eyes.
“For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
– Luke 7.47
He who has been forgiven much loves much.