Summary: How do we get along with other Christians and unbelievers? Sometimes it’s harder than we can ever imagine. That’s why we need to show the love of Jesus even more in every relationship we have.
In my last post, I talked about how to discover your ministry and gifts to Serve the Church. In this post, I will teach about how to live in your faith community and in the world.
We manage so many relationships in our day. We have to learn social rules for each group we are part of. Your relationship with your spouse is different than the relationship with your children and friends. Things you say and do it on group will be different from what you would do in another group.
Living with other believers in a faith community is no different. The New Testament is full of commands on how to treat one another. For new disciples of Jesus, learning how to interact with other disciples can be hard. It’s no surprise, but we don’t say it enough: you won’t get along with every Christian you meet.
That said, how do we love one another if we don’t like each other? Do we have to like each other? These are the kinds of questions pastors just love addressing (not really). How do we deal with not getting along, or disciplinary issues? With all that said, and some of these questions raised, let’s get started.
Big Personality in the Church
It seems we get along with some people and don’t get along with others. One reason for this is personality differences among us. Is it a sin to have a personality that doesn’t get along with others? No. God made us the way we are. That includes our personality.
Even still, some people just rub other people the wrong way. Would it be wrong to not hang out with the people that don’t mix with your personality? No, I think it would be better to find people who fit you best to develop close relationships with in the church. It would be more of a problem he tried to make things that don’t work work.
There are all kinds of personalities. I’m no psychologist, so I can’t tell you what does and doesn’t work for you. Even greater than the number of personalities are two distinct types of people that usually don’t understand one another. I’m talking about introverts and extroverts.
I recently read an interesting book about Introverts in the Church. The author is an introvert working in pastoral ministry. He describes how he felt in the church, that he didn’t seem to fit “the mold.” He didn’t think he fit anywhere. It seemed to him, and I think rightly so, that most of the church, especially church leadership, was expected to be extroverted.
Introverts and extroverts are wired the opposite way. Introverts feed off of depth of relationships rather than number of them. Extroverts love being in a crowd of people. They make friends easier than introverts.
What we need to remember as disciples of Jesus is that if a person is not built the same way we are, we need to honor that and try to find the best way to make friendships with people different than ourselves. We need to talk to one another instead of talking over one another.
Another difference we need to remember is that we all have different interpersonal skills. Some people are good at making friendships while others struggle. Jesus made us all different. We can learn to have better interpersonal skills, but that does not change the moment we interact with one another. Some people need time to get to know people. There’s nothing wrong with that. The best advice I can give on the subject of personality is that we need to give each other room. Let’s address one another as the unique individuals God created us to be.
Living among Other Disciples
We all need grace more than any of us realize. How should we treat one another? This post is much too small to answer that question specifically. Needless to say, the New Testament is full of how we should treat each other. If I went through all the commands of the New Testament letters about how to treat one another, I can probably write a small book.
Some of the high points are that we should love one another as Jesus loves us. Love looks different to each person. The way I feel love is not the way you feel love. I suppose that’s why the book called Five Love Languages has sold so many copies and been so popular over the years.
The basic principle of love is that we put others ahead of ourselves. We give people the grace they need. We hope for it in return. Navigating our personality types, introverted and extroverted makeups, and learning how to get along with one another are all parts of love. On top of all that, we need mentors, maturity and growth, discipleship, worshiping together, learning how to fit in to the body, and a host of other things.
All of that happens within relationship. So, more than anything, we need to learn how to relate to one another. Some Christians will be older than you in the faith and chronologically. All that factors into how we interact with one another.
Realize that some Christians are younger in the faith then you, and some are older. The maturity level will be different spiritually. But it can also be different chronologically. The way a child is growing is different than the way an adult is growing.
Dealing with Disagreements
Can Christians disagree with one another? Sure they can, and do. If you think that’s a sign of immaturity, then Peter and Paul were immature (Galatians 2:11-14). Paul and Barnabas were also immature (15:36-41). Peter and Paul argued with one another about Peter’s seeming neglect of Gentile Christians when Jewish Christians were around. Paul and Barnabas disagreed over taking John Mark with them in their next missionary journeys.
It’s okay to disagree with another Christian. We have entire denominational and church splits over minor doctrines and disagreements among believers. This doesn’t mean we are not saved. It just means that people will disagree with one another. Sometimes these disagreements are over procedure or what the church should be doing. Other times, they are disagreements that are entirely unuseful to the church. This includes the color of the carpet or other design elements for the church building.
The way we deal with disagreements shows our spiritual maturity. If a disagreement comes to blows or the separation of a person or group from the church, that should never happen. If you have a disagreement you don’t feel can be resolved, don’t hang out with that person. Just because you are both believers in Jesus does not mean you have to spend every waking hour with one another. The body of Christ is large.
Dealing with Discipline
It’s good for us that Jesus could see this coming and gave us a three-tier system to deal with disputes (Matthew 18:15-20). When you disagree with someone, or if you feel you have been sinned against or sinned against another, first is a one-on-one meeting. If you cannot come to agreement, you can take it to leadership in the Church. If that does not work, the whole church can hear the dispute and make judgments about it.
Instead of holding grudges against one another, refusing to forgive, and all sorts of other tactics we use when we don’t want to follow the scriptural precedents set by Jesus, let’s be mature enough and begin have to address the elephant in the room with one another. I hope it doesn’t come to the whole church having to hear a dispute before it is resolved.
I also hope you don’t run from the discipline of the church. Nowadays with there being so many churches, a person could just leave one where he needs to be disciplined and go to another church. That does not solve the problem for that believer or the church. The same problems and undisciplined disciple of Jesus has an on church will crop up in the other church he decides to attend.
When we do not receive proper discipline, which is vital to our spiritual health, those issues will never get fixed in us. It may even cause other issues, like pride. We need to realize the value of being disciplined so we can grow deeper in Christ. No one likes discipline at the time but it is necessary for us to grow together.
Living among Unbelievers
Every Christian should have unbelieving friends. God did not call us to get away from all the unbelievers in our lives because we are being made holy. If every Christian separated himself or herself from everyone who did not believe in Jesus, who would we witness to? That said, do not have unbelieving friends for the sake of evangelism. Be a friend!
When you are among unbelievers, do not use Christian words they do not understand. Don’t act like you are better than them. If you do, you are not. Jesus made friends with sinners all the time. He was so compelling that they came to hear Him speak. Do you have a compelling Christianity that goes beyond the four walls of the church?
Unbelievers need the same love and respect we give to believers. Whether or not a person knows Jesus should not be a deciding factor in how you treat them. You should treat them so well they want to know Jesus.
Living with Your Neighbor
Whether we are living among believers or unbelievers, the rule of loving your neighbor as yourself applies (). Everyone is your neighbor. Even if it’s a person you don’t like, that person is your neighbor. That is the point of Jesus’s Parable of the Good Samaritan (). How the Jewish leaders must have been shocked at the story when the Samaritan they did not like was the hero.
There will be people in heaven that will surprise you to see them there. You may surprise other people who see you there. We don’t make the call who’s there and who’s not. All we can do is love people and treat them with respect. That goes with any group of people you are a part of. Give the other person some slack. They’re not perfect, but neither are you.
Love goes deeper than just liking someone. We can show the love of Jesus to people we may not like very much. I think if we can show everyone the love of Jesus, they won’t even realize we don’t like them too much. Give others a break, and take a break from others if you need one. Above all, ask yourself, “How can I show that person the love of Jesus today?” Then do what the Spirit tells you to do.
How can you show someone the love of Jesus today? Do you have unbelieving friends you can show Jesus’s love to? The way you show Jesus’s love will be different for each person.
Now that we have talked about how to live in a faith community and even among unbelievers, I will address worshiping God together and why that is so important.