Christianity is a religion like no other and it is incontestably the case that all genuine Christians are like Jesus, for it is his moral and spiritual qualities, so much an indispensable part of his nature that the possession of them define believers as Christians. To be Christian sets one apart as possessing all the qualities of grace endowed by Almighty God that enables the Christian, through the agency of the Holy Spirit, to exhibit qualities indicating spiritual transformation that Paul wrote about like this, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law." (Galatians 5:22-23)
One should note the overwhelming importance of one word in Paul's quotation; the word FRUIT. It does not say FRUITS of the spirit but rather FRUIT of the spirit because ALL of these will be evident in every Christian who is genuinely converted and walking in the light.
Wherever you go in the world and you meet genuine Christians they exhibit these Christ-like qualities.
To associate the word obnoxious with the word Christian is an oxymoron and all reasonable people will find the association jarring.
The problem we have here is that for many people Christianity is defined in a mushy-mushy way including a lot of things that are inconsistent with the Christian faith.
A man is called Christian, yet he habitually abuses his wife and children.
A steward in the church is called Christian; yet every chance he gets he misappropriates the church's funds.
A preacher is called Christian, yet he loves getting drunk with his work mates and secretly frequents brothels.
Sadly for the promotion of the gospel and the strengthening of Christian values Christianity has acquired a new definition; for some people Christianity is nothing more than churchgoing or the possession of some biblical knowledge.
Many people, in and out of the church, are masquerading as Christians and hiding under the Christian umbrella and in the process are doing great disservice to the name of Jesus Christ and confusing an already sceptical world.
This problem is very old, for it arose in the church's infancy when a certain man, his name was Diotrephes (and you may never have heard of him) was an absolute horror and he caused untold suffering in the church. Here in full is the situation as recorded in the book of 3 John:
" 1 The elder,
To my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth.
2 Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, just as you are progressing spiritually. 3 It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
5 Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers to you. 6 They have told the church about your love. Please send them on their way in a manner that honours God. 7 It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. 8 We ought therefore to show hospitality to such people so that we may work together for the truth.
9 I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us. 10 So when I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, spreading malicious nonsense about us. Not satisfied with that, he even refuses to welcome other believers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.
11 Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God. 12 Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone and even by the truth itself. We also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true.
13 I have much to write to you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. 14 I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.
Peace to you. The friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name." (3 John 1-14. New International Version - U.K. )
Note what John said about this man beginning in verse 9:
1. He loves to be first
2. He was dismissive and not the welcoming kind
3. He slandered the Apostles
4. He turned away missionaries and evangelists
5. He prevented the assembly from welcoming believers
6. He threw out of the church those he did not like
In a word this man was obnoxious.
We will do well to remember that in the early church the Christian doctrine was not well established and the assemblies did not, at the time, have access to the Bible as we know it today. What they had was some of the Scriptures of the New Testament and the entire Old Testament and they relied on the Apostles to explain, and teach sound doctrine and build the church; and this was what the Apostles did (Ephesians 2:20)
We do not know a lot about this man, Diotrephes, and we cannot be certain of his standing in the church; he could have been a deacon, or a bishop or he might just have been the owner of the house in which assembly worship took place, or he may possibly have been a wealthy member with a clique and hangers-on.
What we do know is that Diotrephes was signally disruptive, made others uneasy, and took away the joy of worship from the worshippers. The Apostle John, now elderly and probably at this time the only surviving Apostle, was now compelled to travel away from his base at Ephesus with these words, "So when I come, I will call attention to what he [Diotrephes] is doing... I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face."
The path to becoming constructive, cooperative, a positive role model and generally one who is seen as an asset to the church and a credit to the faith is the same for all believers.
First we must not be self centred.
When people become egocentric they become vaunted with pride, think that the faith is about them, what they want, what pleases them and their likes and dislikes determine everything. Not so. To be a Christian is to acknowledge that we put God first, people second and ourselves last; that is the proper Christian order and it must never be upended. The plain truth is that when we put God first then everything falls nicely into place and our ultimate happiness and goals are accomplished. (Matthew 6:33)
Next we must recognize good ideas from others.
It is always easy to relish our own ideas and proceed with gusto and determination to accomplish them but give scant regard to some people's suggestions. Sometimes we do that because we think some people are beneath us, not educated enough, not of our standing, etc., and we are the poorer for it. This is one of the failings of leadership but believers are to support good ideas, because God often endows the simple mind with tremendous concepts, and that has nothing to do with class or gender. (Exodus 18:13-24)
Finally we need to make allowances for other people's failures.
Some people rub you the wrong way and there is no denying that; either through their attitude, inappropriate comments, choice of words, voice tone, etc., and we can so easily harden our hearts against them. The truth is, obnoxious people are plentiful, and you are fortunate if you meet just a few of them, and when you do, to be dismissive and intolerant comes easy. If possible we should try to correct them and so help them to be an asset; but there are those who will not be corrected, are in strong, even bellicose denial and no amount of counselling will change things. The chances are that they will take no advice from anyone. (Galatians 6:1)
Christians should always proceed with love towards each other and be so committed to God that in the event of encountering an obnoxious person, whether he be sinner or saint, our conduct is so becoming that God is glorified.
Books by this author (non-fiction except indicated otherwise)
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Dr. Henderson Ward received his Doctor of Divinity in theology, with distinction, from Masters International School of Divinity, USA, where he is currently a post-doctoral fellow. Dr. Ward's career involved pastoring, evangelism, and teaching. Copyright 2013
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