I mean, seriously y’all. On Sunday morning, I set the pick for the pastor so smoothly that Luke insisted he got caught up in a tag team situation. (Either that or he’s now convinced that God totally has his number.)
It went down like this:
On our drive to church on Sunday morning, Luke dropped a random negative comment about one of his friends. Mind you, this is like the 16th not-so-loving mention of this particular friend in the last few weeks, and I’m kind of over it.
That’s not to say I’m insensitive to the source of these comments. Because I totally get it. Luke got his feelings hurt earlier this summer, and he’s still a little raw along the edges when it comes to this friend.
But hurt feelings don’t excuse ugly behavior, so I used the moment to remind Luke that what we say about other people reflects our own hearts. I also threw in the bit about how we don’t build ourselves up by tearing others down and what-not.
Then I topped it off with a suggestion that he consider what’s going on in his own heart before he critiques someone else’s behavior. That mini-lesson was basically such a slam dunk that we probably could have turned the car around and called it a day. (Clearly I was proud of this one.)
I’m glad we didn’t though, because the first line of our pastor’s sermon went something like this:
Is there anyone in your life who annoys you?
Yes! Make that, YES!
This was actually one of the few times that I felt like raising my hands in church and shouting out a big amen. Mostly because (a) yes I do have annoying people in my life, and I’d love to talk a little more about how they need to fix themselves…and (b) I could sense that my parental wisdom was about to be divinely validated, and that certainly called for a demonstrative fist pump.
I may or may not have given Luke the parental eye that said, “Heads up, son, I’m pretty sure this one is for you…” All the while remaining ignorant of the fact that the upcoming scripture lesson was about to whack me in the face.
If I recall correctly, our pastor seemed to underscore the point that Jesus doesn’t ask us to get wrapped up in what other people are doing…but he calls us to look at ourselves. And then it was like “enough already” when he practically looked straight at me and said “We ought to let the things that annoy us in other people point us to the issues in our own hearts.”
For crying out loud, I thought we were going to talk about how all the Annoying People could learn to be better people by becoming more like us. Also, I thought we were on the same page here about driving my point home to Luke.
Okay, okay. That’s not really what I expected to hear from the pastor because of course I realize that attitude doesn’t line up with the way Jesus did things. But hello…it’s really not so far from the self-righteousness that percolates underneath my pride when I’m routinely annoyed by certain behaviors in others.
I mean, if they knew Jesus like I do…surely they wouldn’t be so annoying. (Ouch. Big time ouch.) (And really I want to say, “Oh hell no”….but I don’t want to offend anyone.) So moving on…
“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.” (Luke 6:41-42 NASB)
Perhaps if I weren’t so nit-picky about other people, I wouldn’t miss the ugly parts of my own life that could use a whole lot of Jesus.
Truth be told, we can’t change other people. Not only that, but when we try to nag and criticize others into behavior change, it doesn’t work out so well. People are more apt to change when they are inspired to live differently…not nagged to live in a way someone else claims they “should”.
The best thing we can do for others is to show them what it looks like to live a life that reflects the work God has done in our own hearts. Because when we are aware of the mountainous terrain Jesus has scaled across our own mess, we can offer nothing but mercy to others.
Which is why the conversation on the drive home from church took a more humble turn than it did on the frontside. I told Luke about my own struggle with someone who annoyed the heck out of me…and how that struggle highlighted some parts of me that believed I was somehow “more right and deserving” than they were.
We talked about how God brought this to my attention, told me the truth about the situation, and how God is still working it out in the way I live. (Not so perfectly since I still get in the way sometimes, but progress nonetheless.)
Oddly enough, that approach seemed to have a genuine affect on Luke’s view of his own situation. Which pretty much just proves that Jesus nailed the solution of How To Deal With Annoying People…and step one is to look at myself first.
(Maybe I’ll think twice the next time I’m tempted to point at someone else during the sermon.)
Oh to grace…
p.s. Thanks a lot for that, Pastor John. (I think.)
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