Loving the brethren: Sometimes it’s difficult

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” – John 13:34

We believers are commanded to love our brothers and sisters in the Lord. But after being part of a church fellowship for a time or even after navigating the Christian blogging community here at WordPress for a period, we are bound to come across individuals that we don’t easily mesh with for whatever reason. Sometimes we’re put off by a person’s personality. Sometimes we don’t agree with a person’s beliefs regarding a secondary or tertiary doctrine and they keep “banging the drum” about it. Sometimes we perceive that we have somehow been wronged by an individual and refuse to forgive them. We should sacrificially love and forgive others as Christ forgave us, but sometimes it’s difficult to hang out with certain individuals. I’ve changed the names in the illustration below:

Mike and Sue Smith are a Christian married couple who live in our old neighborhood. My wife and Sue became good friends back in the day and we all socialized together occasionally. However, in 2001, during my very dumb prodigal “season” away from the Lord, my wife and I divorced, sold the house, and moved out of the neighborhood. Miraculously, the Lord brought my wife and I back together the following year. Twelve years went by, but in 2014 my wife reached out to Sue and they rekindled their friendship. We began socializing with the Smiths again and they invited us to a worship service at their church, which led to my returning to the Lord. Praise God! About every 6 or 8 weeks or so, we got together with the Smiths, either sharing a home-cooked meal or taking a short trip somewhere together. We had some good times and plenty of good conversation about the Lord and our Christian walk.

However, the Smiths (especially Sue) are very politically-minded and would regularly introduce political topics into the conversations. My wife is also very politically-minded, although she’s at the opposite end of the political spectrum from the Smiths. Me? I’m trying hard to be apolitical because I believe that politics and nationalism are a snare for Christians and this story is a good example of that. Anyway, during our get-togethers either Sue or my wife would invariably introduce a political topic into the conversation and the other would take off like a rocket. Often the discussions became tense and very uncomfortable. This happened just about every time the four of us got together. My wife realized that she and Sue were never going to agree politically, so, for the sake of the friendship, she asked that they avoid political discussions completely. But Sue wouldn’t stop. Again and again the Smiths, especially Sue, would bring up politics when we were together. Politics and nationalism were such integral parts of their beliefs and affections that they could not disengage from them.

One cold, Saturday night in January 2019 we were over at the Smiths’ for dinner and ONCE AGAIN they brought up politics. Both my wife and I kindly objected that we didn’t want to discuss politics, but they kept it up and kept it up until my wife finally responded. Things then quickly escalated to the point where Sue, the hostess, left the dinner table in a fit of rage and the three of us sat there in a very chilly and awkward silence. Should my wife and I just get up and leave? I had never been in a circumstance like that before. Things cooled down a little bit after my wife apologized for her part. After another half-hour of forced small talk, my wife and I finally extricated ourselves from that very awkward situation. When we got into our car, I turned to my wife and said something along the lines of, “THAT was the last straw. Never again.” We haven’t seen the Smiths since.

Rare is the fellow believer whose doctrinal beliefs are going to align exactly with ours. We all need to practice tolerance, patience, and forbearance when it comes to non-salvation issues. However, over the years I’ve had to disengage from/unfollow bloggers here at WordPress who were very passionate about a particular secondary or tertiary belief, turning it into their “hill to die on.” There are some believers who we are just not compatible with. We must love them and pray for them (I’ll be forever grateful to the “Smiths” for inviting us to their church in 2014), but being in their company and engaging with them is not good for them or for us.

25 thoughts on “Loving the brethren: Sometimes it’s difficult

  1. Thanks for sharing this, Tom. It’s an important topic, and not one easily spoken/written about. There’re certainly no simple answers, either. One thing for sure, bearing with another for the sake of Christ’s love is neither always practical nor wise when it comes to personal contact and fellowship.

    L-RD Bless, Keep, Shine and Grant Shalom Peace to you and yours. . .

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks, Jonah Z. I appreciate your comments. This was a difficult topic (and example) to write about. We must certainly always strive for harmonious fellowship in the Lord with our brothers and sisters. That is the ideal. But in some circumstances, the kindest thing we can do is avoid them.
      Thank you and Lord bless you and yours as well!

      Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks, sister! I imagine many other Christians have experienced difficult relationships with other believers with no “good” resolution. Ach. That was definitely a memorably bad evening.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Nice. Topped out at 75 here. Still waiting in the car after 2 hours, another one of my wife’s MD appointments, but got a good start on a FANTASTIC book, “Unfulfilled Promise,” how Billy Graham, Carl Henry, and Harold Ockenga broke away from fundamentalism and started Neo-Evangelicalism in the late 1940s. This is the book I was hoping for; the American version of Iain Murray’s book, “Evangelicalism Divided.” It’s written by a Biblically-solid author, not a polemicist with an ax to grind.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yeah, my wife was in the MD office for 2.5 hours. If I knew ahead of time I would have dropped her off and returned. Real glad I had that book on my Kindle.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Cathy. The older I get the less I want to debate believers. Defend the Gospel against Roman Catholicism and other pseudo-gospels? Always! Debate believers over secondaries and tertiaries? Not so much.
      RE: American Christian nationalism
      As you know, many American evangelicals assume all other believers share their penchant for nationalism. Our former friend could not dissociate her faith from her nationalism and conservative politics. It was impossible for her.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Not the easiest topic to tackle. We are sure faced with these situations more often than we would like. I am currently in one and I keep avoiding the person. I can’t hide forever.
    Thank you Tom for sharing. May God give us wisdom and the love we need.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Crissy.
      RE: May God give us wisdom and the love we need.
      Amen! There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to these inter-personal conflicts.

      Like

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