Ever get home from the grocery store, and find out that someone else in the household already purchased something that you just found on sale…in bulk! And, then you found that there was still another stash of the same thing in the cabinet. Mac and cheese for everyone this month!
On a related note (although you’ll have to bear with me for moment, in order to see the connection), we can forget sometimes that David didn’t just beat Goliath and immediately find himself seated as king of all 12 tribes of Israel. Even after being anointed as the future king, his destiny wasn’t instantly realized. (This was not unlike Joseph, whose path to finding his prophetic dreams fulfilled took him through a lot of trials.)
There’s even a point where David finds himself on the run from one king (Saul), and in the presence of another king (Achish) who may also soon realize that he wants to kill David, too. So, David thinks fast, and fakes insanity, leading to the following reply from King Achish:
Finally, King Achish said to his men, “Must you bring me a madman? We already have enough of them around here! Why should I let someone like this be my guest?”
1 Samuel 21:14-15 NLT
(King Achish doesn’t sound very sensitive to the plight of those with mental illness1, so let’s be careful not to emulate him in that.)
Still, his statement serves as an illustration to us. Regardless of what a particular group of people might have in common, sometimes we are tempted to say, “We have enough of them around here!”
In the Body of Christ, are we sometimes overwhelmed with certain types of people? Consider the challenges faced by congregations who receive an influx of people with certain characteristics:
- Those who are new believers, and don’t know a lot of the principles found in God’s Word, much less the traditions of an established congregation.
- Those of a different generation or social background, whose habits seem strange to others who aren’t used to them.
- Those who all seem to have the same gifts, over-stocking certain ministries while leaving others wanting.
- Those who seem to be working against the message of Jesus, whether by attacking His followers, seeking to legislate against His teachings, or generally just being disruptive.
So, what can we do, when presented with this situation?
- First, celebrate the rescue of souls from the wages of sin. The choice of any new believer accepting Jesus is to be celebrated (see Luke 15:10).
- If you are a long-time follower of Jesus (or even a not-so-long-time follower of Him), invest in those who are newer to the faith. Spend time teaching them how to study the Bible on their own, what it means to talk with God, and how to use their gifts within the body of Christ (see Matthew 28:19).
- Extend grace to all, whether they differ in maturity or in style. No one becomes perfect upon choosing to follow Jesus. The process of becoming like Him is a lifelong pursuit. Don’t forget that each of us have our own set of strengths and weaknesses, as well as both sins that we have mastered and those that we struggle with. See Ephesians 4:2.
- Hold tightly to grace and truth, but loosely to traditions and practices. To be clear, many conventions of the church have benefit in creating community, developing discipline, and remembering “holy history” (packed with lots of valuable lessons). However, they must always be subservient to the goals that they were intended to achieve, and when they cease to point people to Jesus and His commands, they are destined to give way to something else. See Ephesians 2:14.
- Seek everyone’s gift. It seems logical that God would provide what is needed to support His plan for His kingdom. If a ministry is lacking people, ask God for direction. Maybe that ministry isn’t meant for the time and place that we expect, or maybe He has others waiting in the wings to serve, ready for an invitation. Or, God could be preparing many people for a ministry whose levels of service are about to jump up miraculously. See 1 Corinthians 12:11.
- Don’t forget that other people are not the enemy. Each one has a chance – and a choice – to follow Jesus. Even those who spread a conflicting (or just confused) message deserve to know the truth, and (although none of us have earned it) are the recipients of God’s love. See Ephesians 6:12.
So, if you look around sometimes and think, “What? Another one?“, just be glad you’re not in David’s shoes, running from multiple people who want to kill you (unless you are; in that case, I encourage you to seek God’s counsel, as David learned to do). See each person as an individual, loved by God and uniquely created, even if they have some traits that you’re pretty sure you’ve seen before.
- Of course, there are plenty of people in the church who struggle with chemically-, physiologically- environmentally-, or even spiritually-induced mental struggles. These people need our counsel, support, and help (even if that means helping them to connect with a professional counselor or physician). Don’t be afraid to love them, too. Jesus did. ↩