Up Close and Personal

It happens all of the time. A friend hurts our feelings. A pastor doesn’t understand us fully. A spouse lets us down. A teacher treats us like we are ignorant. A boss is short and demanding. We walk away thinking, “wow, he wasn’t as nice as I thought he would be.” And then disappointment sets in. Sometimes disappointment turns into bitterness or anger. We begin to resent the particular person for their failure towards us.

Suddenly we are the unwitting victim of our unmet expectations. But honestly, and I have seen this all too often in my own life, we are really expecting them to meet a need or fill a void that only Jesus can fill. We are all too often slaves of our own unrealistic expectations. It can happen to all of us.

What I have learned in my own life is that I have a tendency to put people on a pedestal—idolize them. I worship the very words that come from their mouths, think they can do no wrong, and then suddenly I am sorely disappointed when they act just like me—a sinner. This is not to say that sin should be condoned or allowed, it just means that everyone is pretty ugly once you get to know them. We are all sinners (Romans 3:23), even the people we admire most. If we kept them at a safe distance they could not disappoint us, but that is not what God calls us to.

He calls us to live in a community. Not a perfect one, by any means, but a community, regardless of our sanctification process. For some of us it means that we will have to trust in God’s promise to complete the work he began (Philippians 1:6), for others it will mean we have to trust the confrontation from the people God has given us for our growth.

I remember the first time a friend really was honest with me about my need for growth. I hated it at first. But that only revealed my sin even more! It taught me something about the kindness of God. God has given me friends and family to convict me of my sin because he doesn’t want me to stay where I am. But he has also put me in a marriage, a family, and a church community because he wants me to not only be a recipient of his grace, but a means of his grace for others.

We can keep people at a safe distance if we want to, and we might not get hurt by their sin. But we will never grow if we do. We were meant to live within a community of God’s people, his family, blemishes and all.

It's so much easier to ridicule and inspect from a distance. But God wants us to get in the thick of it and get a little messy and scarred. It's what he did when he sent his Son. If Jesus had not come and dwelt among us, getting in the middle of all that we were, we would not be here. Sure, he could have observed from afar, but that would not have saved anyone. He became one of us, got personal with people, and died so that we might live. And that is our foundation for getting up close and personal with others.