I once led a revival meeting at the request of a young pastor who was trying to convert his traditional church to the house church. He was having a hard time because the retired senior pastor was sabotaging the house church through the church’s elders.
When I preached on Sunday, I noticed the retired pastor sitting in the first row. At the end of my sermon, I invited the congregation to stand up if they wanted to rededicate themselves. Almost the entire congregation stood up. I felt that the magnitude of this response would give the retired pastor a good impression of me and help change his opinions on the house church.
After the service, I was standing with the young pastor at the exit of the sanctuary and shaking hands with the church members when the retired pastor approached me. I expected him to say, “I was moved by your sermon,” or at least give a customary compliment. But what he said was totally unexpected: “Why did you lie on the pulpit?” During my sermon, I mentioned that I didn’t personally know the young pastor well, which was true. Apparently, he felt I was lying. This incident made me realize that no matter how good your sermon is, it can’t touch someone’s heart if the person doesn’t like you.
Some time later, I found myself in the reverse role. I attended a mission rally, and the guest speaker was a missionary whom I didn’t like personally. The people were moved by his message and many responded to his invitation at the end of the sermon. It was obvious that his message was good, but I was unmoved. I then realized that there was no difference between me and the retired pastor who insulted me.
It’s hard to control feelings of dislike. Once we dislike people, no matter what good they do, nothing makes us like them. That was the case for the retired pastor with me and for me with the speaker at the mission rally.
So I decided to give up hope of changing the minds of people who don’t like me by saying nice things or trying to do great things to impress them. They won’t change their opinions about me no matter what.
On the other hand, I try to make sure that I’m not enslaved by feelings of dislike. Dislike can be overcome by compassion and love, which only God can give. All I can do is pray. When I continue to do that, God will grant me the necessary love and compassion, or give me power and wisdom to work with them courteously towards our common goals.
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