We all want to belong, to feel accepted, to fit in, to be part of the group; that’s natural. I even think that to a certain degree, that desire reflects a need that is not only natural, but essential: we are social beings created for community. Even if everyone else deserts us, we will still rely heavily upon fellowship with the Holy Spirit to sustain us. God made us this way because that’s the way He is: He has always existed as a communion of three members in the Trinity; He was never alone, and He never intended for us, who are made in His image, to be alone either.
The trouble starts when we develop an attitude of pride and arrogance in our belonging to a certain group, or in holding to a certain ideology. That’s not to say that we’re wrong in belonging to that group or holding to those beliefs: it is to say that we are wrong to be prideful about it while holding a grudge against those who disagree with us.
For example: I take great satisfaction in regarding myself to be a modestly and femininely dressed woman. I wear long skirts past the knee (not always down to the ankle, but at least to the calf), and I wear shirts that cover my chest and shoulders. Though I don’t belong to a church where we all dress the same (even though sometimes I wish I did), I am comforted and encouraged to know several ladies online who feel the same way. Am I wrong in my beliefs about modesty? No, I don’t think so. Am I wrong to try to join with others who have the same mentality? No. However, would it be wrong to shut out of my life all who don’t think the same way? Yes, I think it would be.
When we believe something strongly, we have the tendency to draw an imaginary line between us and all who think the same as us, and those who don’t agree with us. We develop an “Us versus Them” mentality, and start to view the “them” component as our enemies. But this type of thinking isn’t very kind, gentle, compassionate or patient. Somehow, we misunderstand and think that having compassion on people means we have to accept them and everything they believe. Not so. We can be kind to others without necessarily agreeing with their beliefs.
I think that what mostly keeps us from being as nice as we should is fear and insecurity. We are afraid that we won’t be strong enough to maintain our stance if we associate too closely with them…which may be true. Nobody said we have to be best friends; yet, why shouldn’t we be friend-ly? You know, neighborly? Additionally, we are afraid they will misunderstand our friendliness to mean we see no difference between wrong and right, between their wrong viewpoints and our more correct perspective. We want to make sure there is no confusion, which again, is not bad. However, we need to guard against seeming hostile and unwelcoming. That can be tricky, to make our beliefs clear (if necessary) and to show kindness toward others at the same time, despite our differences.
Then there is the other extreme, that of thinking that loving people means tolerating and accepting their incorrect, and sometimes dangerous, beliefs. “Jesus loves sinners, and so should we,” they say, in defense of their all-inclusive attitude. Yes, Jesus loves sinners. He loves them enough to tell them the truth. In the Bible, Jesus ate with sinners; but, He told those sinners the truth. He didn’t eat with them just to hang out with them and make them feel good. He used it as an opportunity to address their greatest need: to see their lives in the light of the truth, repent from dead works, believe in Jesus, and follow Him in obedience as opposed to the rebellion they had been living in. Jesus said that whoever sins is a slave to sin. But He came to set us free–not by allowing us to believe lies about ourselves, but by telling us the truth about ourselves. It’s one thing to love someone for being a fellow human being who was created by God; it’s another thing altogether to pretend that what that person does is always okay. A distinction must be made.
In my own life, I find myself sometimes polarizing into the Us vs. Them thinking. And then, I stop myself. Yes, there is right, and there is wrong. There are those who have been set free to see the truth, and there are those who are still clinging to their blindness. It isn’t always necessary or appropriate to be closely involved with other people who are still trapped by their sin, lest we also become ensnared by that same sin (“what fellowship has light with darkness?”). And yet, there must be a way to stand firmly upon the solid ground of God’s principles without seeming to “hate” other people. We need to be careful.
It’s so important to be compassionate and understanding of others. That doesn’t mean we withhold the truth from them, as painful as it might be for them to hear it. It just means we care about what they’re going through and what they’re feeling. We find a way to tell them the truth gently. We’re patient with their slow progress, or no progress for the present. We keep on shining our light, hoping they will be enticed to come into the brightness and out of the darkness where lies and self-deception hide.
The Truth Shall Make You Free
31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
33 They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?”
34 Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. 35 And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. 36 Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.
Abraham’s Seed and Satan’s
37 “I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. 38 I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with[l] your father.”
39 They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.”
Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham. 40 But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this. 41 You do the deeds of your father.”
Then they said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father—God.”
42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. 43 Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. 46 Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? 47 He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.”
(from John 8)
And as we tell others the truth, and take a stand for the truth by the kind of life that we model, we must do so kindly and gently.
Approved and Disapproved Workers
14 Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers. 15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 16 But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. 17 And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, 18 who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some. 19 Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ[c] depart from iniquity.”
20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. 21 Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. 22 Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 23 But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. 24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.
(from 2 Timothy 2)
I hope you have benefited from this Bible study intended for ladies. I want to encourage and edify others who, like myself, sometimes struggle to keep in place a right attitude toward those who disagree with us. Modesty, head-covering, and family un-planning can be a lonely path. It is easy to feel resentful and bitter toward people who misunderstand or misrepresent us. Or, to feel disappointed with our sisters in Christ who oppose us, or simply don’t agree with us. Please feel free to participate in a peaceful discussion about this topic below, in the comments section. I look forward to hearing your thoughts!