“Dear God, help me love Irritating Irene*. She drives me crazy. I know she means well, and she probably has a reason for being so obnoxious, but please help me to be patient with her. Amen.”
Ring Ring (Ok, so cell phones really don’t say “ring ring” anymore, but you get it.)
“It’s her. I was just praying about this. Oh good, an opportunity to practice what I’ve been praying about,” Prideful Peg thinks to herself. But before Peg can count to ten the same old song starts to play again and all of the familiar thoughts, judgments, and annoyances come like a flood that threaten to sweep her away. “She’s so wrong! How could she think that’s the right thing? And so selfish!” She says to herself.
Peg hangs up the phone irritated at a fellow believer, disappointed with herself over her own irritation, and frustrated about her own frustration.
In Colossians 3 we are commanded to put to death what is earthly in us and put on compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Above all, we are called to put on love. We are to “let the peace of Christ rule” in our hearts “to which indeed you were called in one body.”
So if we’re commanded to die to ourselves and put on all of these noble character qualities, then why don’t we? Why do they continue to entrap us? Why isn’t it a joy to clothe ourselves not in the “jumpsuit of judgment” but instead the “capris of compassion and the halter top of humility?”
Maybe it is because we don’t have a true grasp of the magnitude of the gospel. If we fully understood the depth of our own sin and the enormous gift of grace that we’ve been personally given through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, maybe we would be much more joyful about freely giving out the same grace to the people in our life who rub us the wrong way.
So should we expect everyone in our Christian life to be compatible with our opinions, likes, and dislikes? Should we expect all of our friends to have a full understanding of our current life struggles and know how to handle us in a way that’s the most loving and most meets our needs? Should we get our feathers ruffled any time that another believer’s personality clashes a bit?
The obvious answer to all of these questions is a resounding “NO!” But often, our sinful heart places these expectations on everyone in our path. It’s in this place that we stumble into fleshly temptations (anger, wrath, malice, slander, obscene talk, etc.) that result in widespread destruction of unity among the body of Christ.
In his sermon on Colossians 3:12-15, Pastor Joshua Harris says,
The message of the gospel isn’t that it makes us all perfectly agreeable and lovable and sinless. No, that doesn’t happen until heaven, folks. The message of the gospel is that because Jesus has loved us and filled us with His Holy Spirit we can love each other even when we’re unlovable. We can love each other even when we sin against one another. We can show compassion when we let each other down. We can be patient when we disagree. We can bear with one another when we’re annoying. That’s the message of the gospel - that the gospel does something in us so that we’re able to love imperfect people like us!
Is your joy in the message of the gospel spilling out grace into every area of your life, such that your love for others covers personal annoyances and differing opinions? If it isn’t, would you ask the Holy Spirit to work in your heart to bring about that change? If you’re praying this prayer today, you won’t be alone.
*Irritating Irene is not a specific person, but a compilation of life-experiences rolled into a figurative illustration. Please don’t call me and ask if you’re Irritating Irene. That would be irritating.