I once brought a schnauzer home that immediately disliked all of my children and only tolerated my wife.
Sometimes, we aren’t much different than my old dog, Heidi. Truthfully, haven’t you ever reacted with immediate dislike toward someone?
I can recall three such encounters in my life.
My first encounter came when I was teamed with a college student to lead worship services in a local church. The college student was a man of deep faith, but when I learned he was the offspring of a ruinous rendezvous between his pastor father and the church secretary, I had a hard time disconnecting the young man from the sins of the father.
My second unpleasant encounter came years later on the second day of my one-year chaplain internship at a state university hospital.
As the interns met to share our faith journeys, I shared that I arrived there after taking a leap of faith to leave my well-paying pastor’s position for the $10K a year internship.
The woman next to me then shared her story, but nothing in the world could have prepared me as she cleared her throat to speak: “My name is Vicki, and I’m a Catholic lesbian.”
Suddenly, this woman made me feel that leaving the security of a salaried position for this internship would be the biggest mistake of my ministry.
Nonetheless, I graduated from the training and was hired by a Texas hospital, where I immediately felt repulsion for yet a third person. It was in the doctor’s lounge that I extended a very reluctant hand to greet a doctor who regularly performed abortions.
I guess I figured that systematically excluding these undesirables from my life put me in good company with the disciples who followed Jesus.
Or did it?
Following Jesus on a pilgrimage to Galilee, his disciples hesitated as Jesus suggested a shortcut through an undesirable territory called Samaria. The Samaritans were undesirable, as they differed with the Jews over where God could be worshipped.
While the disciples objected to the shortcut, they bravely offered their company to protect Jesus. They protected him right up to the time they deserted him looking for their fish taco. I’d have been right at home with these brothers.
Left alone to find water, Jesus encountered a woman at a well and made his thirst known to her. Spewing sarcasm, the woman challenged Jesus’ motives for confessing his thirst to a woman, especially a Samaritan woman, five times divorced with a live-in boyfriend.
Jesus brushed aside her sarcasm and won the woman over by persistently demonstrating his vulnerability and willingness to be involved in her well being.
Like the biblical world, our modern world is full of people who worship God in different ways, and recent events give us impulsive justification to despise different customs, lifestyles and religions. This impulse is best squelched by those who heed the advice of the Love Chapter recorded by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13. “If I have not love, I become a clanging cymbal.”
Eventually, with some God-given grace, I managed to squelch my repulsion for these three people. Good thing, too.
The offspring of the errant pastor introduced me to some awesome worship that year. The lesbian introduced me to an AIDS ministry and its countless victims.
As for the abortion doctor, he posted a flier in his office offering my services to all his patients. And unlike the protesters outside his home, he actually invited me to his home. By the way, we kept the dog for 14 years until her death a few years ago.
As for my wife, she learned to like the dog OK, but she said she’d boycott this column this week if it’s about the dog, thereby proving the Scripture that says a prophet isn’t always welcome in his own home.