As Christians, we often think everyone needs to like us. If people want to be around us and think we’re nice, we assume we’re representing Christ well.
Here’s the problem with that line of thinking: It roots the standard for Christ-likeness in other people’s opinions. They are not God. Jesus is God, and there were some people who didn’t like him when he was on earth. In fact, certain people despised Him. Our standard for Christlikeness is … (wait for it) … Christ.
Brief aside: Occasionally, I wish the Gospel authors had shown a bit more flair when they penned their stories. In this instance, Matthew and Mark both say, “Jesus entered the temple courts” (Matthew 21:12, Mark 11:15). Don’t you think He barged in? or charged in? Or at least strode in? He was angry. He didn’t just “enter” as if he were going through the automatic doors at the grocery store.
Whatever colorful verb you apply here, once in the temple courts, Jesus turned over tables piled with money and benches covered with bird cages. Can you imagine the chaos? People chasing after coins, birds flapping all over the place! I’m sure some of the businessmen yelled at Jesus…maybe even cursed Him if they forget where they were for a minute.
The text doesn’t need to tell us. We know: those guys hated Jesus from then on!
The money changers had a tangible reason to hate Jesus, but the Pharisees despised Jesus because He threatened to disrupt their comfy lives, because with his actions and words (though rarely directly) He questioned their moral superiority and strenuously-held religious convictions. Imagine Jesus if His priority was the Pharisees’ opinions of Him: “You’re right, Pharisees, what we need to do is keep following all these laws. In fact, we need to follow them even more carefully and make sure we never break even one of them. That’s how we will get to Heaven.”
Where’s the grace? Where’s the “not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:9)?
Instead—and I’m massively paraphrasing here—Jesus said, “You guys have missed it, and you’re causing all the people to miss it. There’s a better way.” I don’t like it when people tell me I’ve missed it, or messed up, or been mistaken. Even if they are right, I get a little angry for a minute. The Pharisees’ anger simmered and bubbled for a couple of years until they finally had Jesus killed. That’s pretty serious hatred.
Being like Jesus means
some people will hate us.
Yes, being like Jesus means some people will hate us. The only earthly way they will quit hating is for us to compromise our beliefs. Jesus wouldn’t do it, and I’m assuming compromise is not an option for you either, just as it isn’t for me.
Let’s be clear on what “compromise our beliefs” doesn’t mean. When we mistake kindness and love for compromise, we fail to appropriately represent Jesus. We can always be kind. We can always show love even—perhaps especially—with people who believe differently or act contrary to our values. Jesus loved the Pharisees, after all, and He usually treated them with kindness and respect.
Sometimes Christians are just plain offensive. There are a few Christians I don’t like…and I like most people. Apart from the random personality clash, unlikeable Christians are usually trying to do one of these three things:
- Press their moral convictions onto someone else. The Holy Spirit convicts, not us.
- Persuade someone through exhaustive arguments. The Holy Spirit convinces, at the right time. We can’t force a heart-change.
- Pretend everything is great, that is, mislead someone by acting like their own lives are always perfect. The Holy Spirit commandeers our trials (along with His victories) to crack the hearts of others.
We can trust the Holy Spirit to
do His job while we stick to ours.
Hey, I’ve tried all these in the past, so I’m not judging. It takes a long time to get to where we can trust the Holy Spirit to do His job while we stick to ours.
So if someone doesn’t like you, first rule out a couple of things. If it’s not a personality clash, and you’re not trying to play the Holy Spirit in that person’s life, there’s just one reason for their attitude: The Holy Spirit is softening his/her heart. Softening is often painful. We all resist it. In these situations, our best option is to persevere in the relationship, endure in the hatred while the Spirit works, and know we will probably be friends in the end.
Questions to Ask
When we spend time with someone who doesn’t like us, here’s what we need to ask ourselves.
- Why doesn’t this person like me?
- Have I been offensive?
- Have I judged him/her or presented my faith as an us-versus-them dilemma?
Is their rejection of me actually
a rejection of the Holy Spirit?
Or have I shown love and grace to everyone? Is their rejection of me actually a rejection of the Holy Spirit because He is using me to work in their lives?
If they are rejecting the Holy Spirit, we need to stick with the person and pray hard.
If we’ve caused no offense that we know of, and they still just hate us, we must let go of it. (Oh, this is so hard for me!) We can’t make anyone like us, and God doesn’t expect everyone to like us anyway.
Thankfully, not everyone outside of Christianity is a hater. A few people outside the faith will respond to Jesus-in-me with joy or at least acceptance. Some people will be “in our corner” even when they aren’t in the Kingdom.
Have you experienced rejection or hatred from others simply for being a Christian? How did you handle it? How did you let it go? Did your relationship change later? Drop some encouragement on us in the comments below. I would love to hear from you!