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WE LIKE TO BE LIKED
Posted: March 6, 2006

     A song I once heard observed, "We love to be loved and we hate to be hated; we like to be liked or at least tolerated." Like most of you, I can identify with its sentiments. I sure would like to be loved, liked, or at least tolerated by everyone. Unfortunately, it just is not possible-especially if you are a preacher!

     But, no matter who you are, there are some people who just won't like you, or even tolerate you, no matter what. These people generally fall into one of three categories: those who know you, those who know of you, and those who neither know you nor know of you.

     The first category, people who know you, is probably the largest. These are the people you have met at one time or another. They may be family members, neighbors, co-workers, colleagues, or even former friends. You may have known them for a long time or a short time; you may have just met them. For some reason, something you did or did not do, something you said or did not say, something real or imagined caused them to dislike you.

     The second group tends to be the friends, family members, neighbors, co-workers, and colleagues of the first group. They have heard about you and have developed a dislike for you based on what they have heard. Also in this group are some that may not actually know anyone that knows you personally. However, they have heard of you by reputation or perhaps even read or heard something by or about you. Again, what they have heard or read somehow caused them to dislike you.

     The third group is composed of those who do not know you and who do not know of you. These are those who through prejudice or personal bias do not and will not like you because of your race or ethnic group, religion, skin color, political affiliation, social standing, or some other identifying characteristic. They have already decided that everyone in your group is to be disliked.

     It would be great if we could get along with, or at least be tolerated by, everyone in all three groups. Unfortunately, it just is not possible. There will always be someone that will not like you, will not tolerate you, and will be out to get you no matter what you do.

     God recognizes this fact. That is why the Bible says in Romans 12:18, "If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men." In other words, do your best to get along with as many others as you can.

     Knowing that it won't be possible to get along everyone, the Holy Spirit saw to it that Paul added verse 19 to help us when we have someone who is out to get us. "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord."

     Generally, when someone dislikes you they will show it in some way. Fortunately, though, most people are polite and tactful enough to at least tolerate you when they have to and avoid you when they can. Sometimes, however, when the level of dislike deepens sufficiently, or becomes outright hatred, they will go on the attack.

     At this level of dislike or hatred their feelings toward you tend to become obvious. They are openly out to get you or hurt you in some way. They cut you down whenever they get opportunity and are not averse to taking things that you have done or said out of context. They may even make things up, claiming that you did or said something offensive or objectionable, in an effort to paint you as a horrible person.

     As Christians we will make enemies simply by taking a stand for Christ. Actually, just being a Christian is enough to be disliked or hated by some people these days. When that happens, remember 1Peter 3:14-17:

     "But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing."

     Overt enemies are generally easy to recognize. However, there is a more insidious, covert enemy that occasionally sneaks in under the guise of friendship. They will do their best to blind you to their real feelings while ingratiating themselves to you and gaining your confidence. While outwardly pretending friendship they secretly scheme and connive against you, devising ways to hurt and destroy.

     The Bible warns God's people of such covert enemies in Matthew 7:15: "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves." They sneak into churches and insert themselves into the lives of Christians under the guise of being fellow Believers. Their purpose is to hurt and destroy God's people.

     What is their motivation?

     It could be that they are sent in as agents of destruction, a kind of "fifth column", by the devil. After all, Paul warns in 2 Corinthians 11:13-15: "For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works."

     In fact, I have read books detailing accounts of groups as diverse as those involved in witchcraft, Satanism, communism, and others who attempt to slip members into fundamental, Bible-believing churches in order to stir up trouble and unrest. While pretending to be Believers they attempt to achieve positions of trust, influence, and responsibility from which they work to undermine, neutralize and destroy churches from the inside.

     Now, before you protest too much, consider that agencies as diverse as police departments, the FBI, CIA, the former KGB, the Israeli Massad, and even major corporations have all used similar tactics to undermine, neutralize and destroy enemies and competitors. Undercover and sleeper agents, resistance workers, and such are the stuff of spy and war stories. If governments routinely use agents of influence to infiltrate subversive and criminal groups, foreign intelligence agencies, etc., why wouldn't the devil use similar tactics against churches?

     Yes we have enemies. Yes there are those that dislike-even hate-us. But there is One who hates their deeds even more than we do. Proverbs 6:16-19 says: "These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren."

     Remember, the battle is the Lord's (1 Samuel 17:47). "Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. (Romans 12:19)" And, finally, "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)"

-Pastor Al

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