Assuming that you are are believer, then you are living in the Beloved – marked by God before creation, saved through Christ, changed, inhabited and directed by the Spirit, and His into eternity no matter what. More significantly for today’s post, you are in all of this with a lot of brothers and sisters in the faith.
This family of faith are, in the end, closer to you than any other earthy group of people. As a family apart from the creation, we are precisely that – apart. No bond of flesh within creation is as eternal nor significant. We are commanded to be loving and supportive within that family.
And there’s the rub (to abuse Shakespeare shamelessly)…
Why? Because our brothers and sisters in Christ, or at least some of them, can be very irritating! I would venture to say that within each local assembly there is at least one, and likely several, believers who really annoy you. If not, then I think you are either not involved or in denial…
That said, what do we do with these bozos who are part of us for all eternity?
First, let us remember that they will only bug you in the flesh. In the New Jerusalem, all the vestiges of the flesh which lead to the observations in this post will be gone, for “we will be like Him” (1 John 3:2). As such, the conflict will be gone and forgotten. Thus we only have to consider now – now being the time until we either die or the Lord returns.
With that in mind, do we have to embrace every other believer as our long lost friend – approving and supporting all that they are in the flesh? Should we expect ourselves to interact with all of them well, and fit with them? Are we sinful if we don’t care for or feel comfortable in the company of some? Many pious Christians might seem to believe that this is the case and our obligation.
I would disagree. I think this is without biblical support. Further it leads to reactions and guilt that can in fact be sinful.
The confusion appears to be around the difference between acceptance and preference. That is, global acceptance within the family of believers is regarded as proper and pious, while preference is not. But because you accept an individual as a brother or sister does not imply that you ‘fit’ with them in the present flesh. I know of no biblical text that would propose this.
As long as we are in the flesh and all that it brings, we will be a better fit with some than others. This is where preference comes along. You have a preference for some over others – a natural resonance if you will. And there is nothing sinful in that.
Now, in the New Heaven and Earth, this will apparently not be the case because of our state (1 john 3:2 again), but even this is just an assumption.
We certainly are called to treat our brothers and sisters in the Lord with deference and general regard, since we are all strangers in the same strange land (to use a Robert Heinlein phrase), but our relationships can be at various levels and those levels can be determined but individual preference. There is nothing sinful in that, and I would go so far as to say that to believe otherwise is error.
Let us treat each other with the deference that our relationship in the Lord brings, but realize that having preferences in close relationships is quite acceptable and not sinful as long as it does not result in ill treatment of a brother or sister.
Soli Deo Gloria