Yesterday I became painfully aware of my sinful tendency to hold people at arm’s length who are not like me. It doesn’t mean that I’m not cordial with them and kind to them, but there is only so much time and energy I spend on someone who is not like me. Because I find it hard to relate to them, I find it easier to keep my relationship with them an inch deep so that I still come across as a nice guy but rarely show them the love of Christ.
I don’t think I’m alone with this tendency though… I think it’s probably true of you too… at least to some degree. How do I know this? Because I went to high school. Dividing up into groups of people who have similar appearances and interests is life in high school. As the old story goes, jocks hang out with jocks, band nerds hang out with band nerds (that was me), the wannabe cowboys hang out with wannabe cowboys, the non-conformists hang out with non-conformists and so on. The problem is that Christians have carried this tendency over into the church, where we are called to be a people with “many parts, yet one body” (1 Corinthians 12:20). This body called the Church is to be “joined and held together” and working together properly so that it “builds itself up in love”. How will this happen if we’re acting like several different churches that meet in the same building but are divided up by age, marital status, geographical location, job, and interests?
Here’s a truth that is leading me to repentance over this tendency in my life: Jesus loves me with a love that I can’t fully comprehend, yet He is very different from me. Yes, I know that Jesus shares important similarities with us… He is “one who in every respect has been tempted as we are…” (Hebrews 4:15). But let’s not forget that He was previously not a man, but only God the Son, the second member of the Trinity, residing in heaven with His Father. Jesus chose to become like us, “taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7). Jesus came down into our messed up world and became one of us so that we could become one of His. He didn’t do this just by becoming a man, but by becoming a man who willingly gave Himself up to be brutally murdered and forsaken by His Father. Jesus did everything necessary to love and save a people who were unholy, unrighteous, untruthful, and unlovely… in short, unlike Him. Who will be at your church this Sunday who is unlike you, and what will you sacrifice in order to be like Jesus and draw them closer than arm’s length?