Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
One of my favourite Christian authors is John Ortberg. He’s written some tremendous books which I highly recommend. And one of them has the intriguing title Everybody’s Normal Till You Get To Know Them.
He maintains that everyone of us has flaws, quirks and frailties that drive others to distraction. I’m sure he’s correct. He refers to the 1998 Hollywood movie As Good as it Gets, which I have seen, starring Jack Nicholson. It’s a most interesting movie, and Carol (played by Helen Hunt) is deeply worried about Melvin Udall, the character played by Jack Nicholson.
Melvin angers Carol, a single mother trying to raise her asthmatic son, by his offensive manner. Carol says to her mother, “I just want a normal boyfriend”. Her mother says, “Oh, everybody wants one of those. There’s no such thing, dear”. Her comment says much about human nature. We all want to be normal—to think of ourselves as normal—but there’s a problem. We are born sinners with real failures. We have character flaws.
Every human being wants to be loved
So how can we relate to others who annoy us or even disgust us? Is it possible to accept and love them as they are, warts and all? Jesuit theologian Peter van Breemen writes:
One of the deepest needs of the human heart is to be accepted and valued. Every human being wants to be loved, but there is an even deeper love, a love of acceptance. Every human being craves to be accepted. Accepted for who one is, not for what one has done or achieved or merited.
I think these are very important words for you and me to think carefully over. The Bible says according to 2 Corinthians 5:16 (NIV), “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view.” In the Contemporary English Version (CEV) it says, “We are careful not to judge people by what they seem to be”. Impressions are impressions. Always remember that it takes some time to really know a person—even that annoying neighbour of yours who gets you down!
A gesture of love
Some years ago, Newsweek magazine carried the story of the memorial service held for Hubert Humphrey, former vice-president of the United States. Hundreds of people came from all over the world to say good-bye to their old friend and colleague. But one person who came was shunned and ignored by virtually everyone there. Nobody would look at him, much less speak to him. That person was former president Richard Nixon. Not long before, he had gone through the shame and infamy of Watergate. He was back in Washington for the first time since his resignation from the presidency.
Then a very special thing happened, perhaps the only thing that could have made a difference and broken the ice. President Jimmy Carter, who was in the White House at that time, came into the room. Before he was seated, he saw Nixon over against the wall, all by himself. Carter went over to him as though he were greeting a family member, stuck out his hand to the former president, and smiled broadly.
To the surprise of everyone there, the two of them embraced each other, and Carter said, “Welcome home, Mr President! Welcome home!” Commenting on that, Newsweek magazine asserted, “If there was a turning point in Nixon’s long ordeal in the wilderness, it was that moment and that gesture of love and compassion.”
Proverbs 10:12 (CEV) says, “Hatred stirs up trouble; love overlooks the wrongs others do.”
Jesus taught us to love others as he loved us, and he certainly loved us in spite of our defects and mess-ups—God loves us unconditionally. So we have to love others in spite of the fact that they get on our nerves sometimes; in spite of the fact that they fail; in spite of the fact that they aren’t perfect and are difficult to get along with at times.
(To be continued in Accepting the Faults of Others – Part 2)