Why We Have to Like People

Sunday morning, I walked through the doors of a church I hadn’t been to before, and the greeter (an adorable teenage girl) asked me if I was new and if I wanted to meet the pastor.

I said sure, and she walked me over to him. While he and I were talking, she grabbed a little gift and handed it to me. It was a coffee mug with post-its, a curvy straw and some other knick-knacks inside.

Church got started, and after the first couple of songs of worship, there was time to meet people; at least 8 people shook my hand and told me their names.There were a few more songs, then a sermon on Matthew 6 – a chapter the pastor admitted doesn’t meld well with his personality type because he tends to do his acts of righteousness for men to see. After church, there were free waffles and a chubby bunny contest.

Every big church I’ve been to caters to anonymity and autonomy.

Churches like that get people through the doors, which is good. Anonymity and autonomy kept me at a mega church for the first few months I spent getting to know God.

I didn’t like people and I didn’t want to be around people who liked people. I wanted to go, observe and leave.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

I liked that the pastor of that mega church didn’t like people. It gave me permission to keep not liking them.

It gave me permission to work on how I was perceived from a distance. To be a whitewashed tomb. I could excuse myself for not liking people so long as I loved them.

I have to wonder, though, if anyone has ever truly loved what they dislike. That pastor said it was possible. I’ve never been able to live that way, but I suppose other people can.

I talked to that pastor of my mega church once after attending there for about a year. I thanked him for starting the church and told him that I’d met God there.

He smiled and nodded the way that people who don’t like people smile and nod.

And then he forgot my name.

Because he didn’t get that his job requires him to like people. Just like my job requires me to like students.

I’m sort of thinking of it like this: what if my head decided that it didn’t like knees? I doubt it would be very good at looking out for my knees and it’d probably bang them into tables and get them scraped up all the time.

We take care of the things we like and neglect things we don’t. If we don’t like people, we’ll neglect them. Liking people matters.

A new person walking through the doors is a newly discovered part of the body. Like when a baby realizes he has hands. And sure… there are foreign agents that get into the body and sicken it, and we should be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. But there’s a big difference between Cancer and a damaged knee, and most people who walk through the church doors are damaged knees. When your knee is a little wobbly, you don’t sit around wondering why it doesn’t go and join another body. You help it. You spend time healing it with medications, R-I-C-E, and whatever else it takes.

Because it’s your knee.

You need it.

That’s what I like about small churches. They love people. They claim everyone, including damaged knees. They love their body and they value every member. They don’t tell people where the gift table is and hope the new person grabs a bag on her way out. They introduce her to the pastor and other members, and they grab the gift and put it in her hands.

They don’t expect the new person to do the work of integrating herself into the body. They draw her in. The way that Christ draws us in.

He didn’t make us find our own way to heaven.

He came down from heaven and made a way for us.

Then He told us about the way.

Then He left a Helper to walk the way with us so we aren’t alone.

So that we know we aren’t anonymous to Him or autonomous from Him, no matter how badly we sometimes want to be.


5 thoughts on “Why We Have to Like People

  1. Wow! Great point(s). Very well communicated! I do want to submit an oppinion though. I don’t think anyone naturally likes/loves people. Even people who seem to “naturally” like/love people are usually extroverts who feel fulfilled when OTHERS like THEM. So, they find out what it takes to get the possitive response their flesh craves, and they keep doing it. This sounds harsh, so before you think I am really judgemental and bitter, I want to admit that I am one of those extroverts or “people-pleasers” as I like to call them. My mother always told me, even as a little girl, that I had such a heart for the Lord. I, of course, believed this and let it go to my head. I went throught practically the first half of my life (up until about a year ago) thinking that serving and loving came naturally to me and believing that very little effort was necessary in being a “good” Christian. In truth, I am no better than the extreme introvert who sees absolutely no value in the approval of others and speaks her mind at will, not worrying over who she offends.

    Without Christ, we are hopelessly self-serving. The Lord has opened my eyes to it even more in the last month. I am reading The Mark of the Lion trilogy by Francine Rivers and my attention was drawn to one part in the second book where two Christians are discussing one man’s attempts to witness to a friend and his frustrations at the friend’s stubborness. The other man responds amazingly saying that he knew the other man thought the unbeliever his intellectual superior and sought to conquer him through reason. He wanted the unbelieving man to see his righteousness in Christ and the error of his own ways. He had not come to him in love in hopes to win his soul over for Christ out of concern for the man, but had come with selfish ambitions.

    What I am trying to say is, when someone demonstrates a genuine love for others, it is of God and not from man. Such love can be demonstrated in the mega church just as easily as a gathering of 10 people in the name of Christ. I know what you mean about the smaller church in that you cannot as easily walk in and out without notice and it is easier to get plugged in. It seems that a church of large proportions often forgets the value of a single person. I personally attend a smaller church, but it was not the intimacy of smaller numbers that attracted me, it was the sound, unappologetic teaching of the Word. Also, I saw people living out their faith as I had never seen before. I wanted to be a part of something that attracted those kinds of people. That is probably what you are saying. The mega church tends to attract those that prefer the impersonal versus the personal. The small church tends to attract those who crave intimacy and transparency. I feel like I have come full circle in this commentary and made it a tedious read. If so I am sorry!!!

  2. Definitely not a tedious read! Thanks for what you wrote. I agree with it, and it’s always good to see both sides of the coin. I’m the introvert who was sinful in not engaging people, but it’s entirely possible to engage them with the wrong heart and wrong motivations.

  3. I liked this post a lot. When I read some of your thoughts about desiring anonymity and only letting people a little way in to your person, I think that I may have inadvertently fostered these behaviors in you. I am way too private sometimes. Yet I believe that I should reach out more and be more involved, especially when considered in the context of how Christ lived his life.

    • Of course I can’t separate my identity (and flaws) from my upbringing, but neither can I separate my strengths. At some point, though, my identity became my own, and it was my responsibility to love people. Blaming parents is only valid a little bit and for a short time.

      You’ve been a good mommy 🙂

  4. Pingback: This Mega Church Turned My Stomach And It Ain’t Been Right Sense » BABE IN CHRIST

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