Believe it or not, not everyone likes me. I know, go figure. No matter how much I try, I’m not able to convince them that I’m a great guy! They’re not buying it. Case in point: When I was in the military I had a friend who had gotten himself into some trouble. Due to his infraction, he was demoted. This, in turn, led to mild depression. (FYI, that’s my diagnosis. I realize one needs many years of schooling and multiple degrees to say this with certainty, but in my defense I’ve read articles about this kind of thing on Wikipedia—that ubiquitous and unimpeachable source of scholarship. But I digress.)
I did my best to encourage him and provide comfort. However, he eventually received his rank back and was subsequently promoted again. He was now two ranks higher than me. This seemed to change things quite a bit between us. One day, for some unknown reason, he began to yell at me with the ferocity of the Great Whore of Babylon and embarrass me in front of my entire squadron. Afterwards, one of my friends said I should have punched him in his face. I didn’t do that. To this day, I have absolutely no idea what I did (or didn’t do) to upset him.
As I look back on it now, I ask myself: “God, what were you trying to teach me? What was going on there?” Here’s what I’ve come up with:
1. Not everyone’s going to like you. This is hard for me to accept because I’m a people-pleaser. Although it’s hard to write, the bottom line is I fear man more than God. I wish I could deny it, but I can’t.
2. Binding yourself to someone who is unloving mimics the life and death of Christ. I learned this from Paul Miller. He notes that “Whenever you love, you reenact Jesus’ death. . . . Whenever you bind yourself to someone who at times can be difficult, you are in a place where you can discover God and then joy.1 It’s easy to love those who love you. But who you really are becomes apparent when things don’t go your way. How do you respond when you find out one of your friend’s betrayed you? Think about Jesus’ life and ministry: “Jesus shepherded his twelve disciples even when He knew that one was a devil, one would deny him, and all would desert him.”
3. Humility is necessary. We need freedom in order not to respond in kind when people hurt us, insult us, betray us, lie about us, or deceive us. A truly free person doesn’t need revenge. We’re free to let God handle these matters. We come to the cross and sit broken before God, knowing he’s doing a work in us.