Dealing with Christians is not easy. In fact it can be – well difficult, to say the least. Let’s admit it Christians are some of the hardest people to live with. I’m not sure why that is. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is. In fact it’s been that way since Paul wrote to the church in Philippi about two ladies who couldn’t seem to get along (Philippians 4:2). One of the ironies is that we often treat those outside the church better than we treat each other in the church.
There are several problems with this. The first is that in the church we are family. The language of scripture is replete with family images. God is our Father (Matthew 6:9, Romans 8:15); we are born as sons of God (1 John 5:1); we are adopted into the family of God (Galatians 4:5); we are given a son’s inheritance (Galatians 4:6); we are part of the household of faith (Ephesians 2:19).
But it goes deeper than simply language. God expects us to take care of everyone else in the (His) family. Paul told Timothy to treat the older people in the church as he would treat his father and mother; the younger people as his brothers and sisters (1 Timothy 5:1). He’s talking about maintaining relationships in the family; relationships that are sometimes messy and require work. But without relationships there is no family.
Another problem with the way we act in the church is that it is contrary to the way Christ acts. Think for a moment about that person in your church you just can’t stand. They irritate you; you don’t enjoy being around them; if they never came to church again you wouldn’t miss them. You just wish that they weren’t part of the family. But they are. And you don’t get to choose who’s in the family and who’s out. Christ does, and He’s not irritated by them, in fact He enjoys it when they’re around because He chose them to be part of His family. He revels in their love; He is blessed by their praise; He is exalted in their worship. Now ask yourself – which one of you is out of sync with Christ?
A third problem is that God set the hallmark of our witness to the world as our love for each other (John 13:34-35, 1 John 4:7-11). When we fail to treat others in the church as Christ treats them, we put a roadblock up for any witness that we might have. And believe me, we are being watched and no matter how much we have convinced ourselves that everything is alright in the church, people outside know better. Until they see a healthy, functioning, loving family in the church they won’t want to be part of it.
We need to recognize that struggling to get along with others in the family of God is part of human nature – but it is a sinful part.