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How important is it for us to "like" the people we live and work with? I have often said that we don't need to like people, as long as we still love them as Christians. In other words, even when people behave poorly, we should still love them. But I'm concerned that sometimes we let "dislikes" grow unnecessarily.

The truth is that we can easily learn to dislike anyone; but with a little effort we could just as easily learn to like a lot of them. It's understandable that we would dislike our enemies, but when it comes to my brothers and sisters in Christ, there is every reason in the world for us to "LIKE" each other with capital letters and a few exclamation points. If we can't genuinely and deeply like each other when we have so much in common, how can we learn to like anyone?

We have all experienced feelings of anger, impatience, and dislike for others with whom we live and work, but such dislike needs to be challenged and rooted out. It's something that husbands and wives go through at some stage in their marriage. We become aware of the other person's faults and weaknesses, and we can focus on them until we are absolutely sickened by the other person (so that just being around them becomes a pain); or we can choose to focus on all that we have in common with such people and find ourselves growing in love for each other every day.

Probably the worst thing about focusing on faults, is that it can so easily lead to exaggerating the fault, and making it bigger than it really is. This is cruel and unfair.

I'll give a personal example. At times I've heard about or seen a member of our community saying something that I felt was unnecessarily negative or abrupt to someone outside the community. I saw it as a fault in this person, whom I will call George. To start with, however, it helps to note that this has usually been more based on what I've heard than on what I've personally witnessed. What I've heard and seen have had an impact on what I have imagined about George, and the imaginary fault is probably much bigger than the other two combined.

(This is why it is important not to criticise others behind their backs. Our imaginations can do cruel things with such thoughts.)

So I started imagining that each time George talked to someone he was taking sadistic delight in making enemies for us by attacking them. Recently, when I started thinking like that, I said to myself, "Hold on a minute! Where is this leading? At least he's getting out there and telling them the truth; and even if he's as rough as guts on them with what he says, they can't escape accountability for the truth that is in what he has said. Why feel sorry for someone who won't even make the first step toward following Christ? And why put George down when he's shown so much willingness to get out on the streets with the message?"

Comparing George with others who have left us made me start weighing up the huge benefits of his faithfulness against the perceived inconvenience that an abrasive personality may have on people who are anything but faithful to begin with.

Then I started looking and listening more closely, and I started to appreciate that, far from being rude toward outsiders, George generally showed a lot of wisdom and skill in the things that he said. I started to see that the devil had taken the mere fact that he was not perfect, to get a "dislike" started which could have totally destroyed our relationship.

It could help all of us to start focusing a lot more on how much we have to appreciate in one another. If we did that, we could more or less fall spiritually "in love with" one another, making our fellowship much more of a pleasure than the "cross" that it becomes when we lose our "first love".

Romantic love starts out so romantically just because the couple focus on the good points in each other. They may actually be ignorant of each other's bad points; but even after we've seen someone's bad points, there is much we can do to get back to those good points and thank God (and one another) for them every day. I know that for myself, when I do that, I cannot think of a single person in our fellowship whom I do not regard as some sort of a spiritual giant. You are each incredibly great (and special) people in the eyes of God and in my eyes as well.

(See also Sociology Lessons.)

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