One of the most painful things in ministry comes when someone you have opened your home to, invited time after time and tried to include sits back, folds their arms and with a resolute look says, “No one likes me here.”
The first time I hear it, it makes me sad and I try harder. I bend over backwards to say hello and work to include. I begin to notice that most of these folks are just not joiners. It is like they are determined to be outsiders. They remove themselves, physically and emotionally and normally find one or two others who will join them in their misery.
The second time I hear it, I tend to point out what I have witnessed. I mention times I have seen them withdraw from people who have been trying to reach out and I list off examples. It never matters. It falls on deaf ears and I feel powerless.
The third time I hear it I get angry because I know that people have been trying and have been refused, shunned and even treated rudely. Still, the finger points and the voice is the same, “No one likes me here and I don’t this place.”
It takes every ounce of self-control I can muster to not stand on my chair and scream, “MAYBE YOU ARE TOTALLY UNLIKEABLE!!! No matter what we do for you it is not enough. What is your problem???”
When is enough, enough? I’ve been looking for examples of how Jesus dealt with difficult people. You know what? I can’t find examples of Him chasing after people who really don’t want to be around Him. I can’t find examples of the apostles cow-towing to people within the church who were whining. Paul tended to be pretty tough on them and told them to shutup and put on love.
Yes, we’re to go after the “lost sheep” and the one who is wandering away. But what about the sheep who stays around and is perpetually negative about everything and everybody? What are we to do with them?
As I read Scripture it looks to me like we are to urge people to press on to majurity in Christ and call the whining, complaining and slandering what it is; sin. If they consistently refuse to recognize their own responsibility to love their brothers and sisters in Christ as a response to Jesus, we need to confront them again with another brother or sister. If they continue to just want to place blame, I’ve come to the place of being direct and telling them it is time to stop tearing and dividing and move on peacefully.
Plainly, I just can’t find anywhere in Scripture which encourages these folks to justifiy their behavior on how they perceive others are failing them.
As far as it is possible, we are to be at peace with all people but if it’s impossible all we can do is pray.