For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
– 1 John 3:11-18
“The unbeliever may take his own temperament and experience, just as they happen to stand, and consider them worth communicating simply because they are facts, or worse still, because they are his. To the Christian his own temperament and experience, as mere fact, and as merely his, are of no value or importance whatsoever: he will deal with them, if at all, only because they are the medium through which, or the position from which, something universally profitable appeared to him.”
– C. S. Lewis, ‘Christianity and Literature’
I once developed a Bible Study course on the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Temperament Index). My premise was the Scripture above. If we love one another, we will want to understand our brother. We will also want to understand ourselves – not to accentuate our uniqueness, but to tone it down when around others that do not think the way that we do. I spent a couple of weeks (hour and a half discussions) explaining the language of the MBTI – Introvert versus Extrovert, Sensing versus Intuitive, Feeling versus Thinking, and Judging versus Perceiving. I then looked at Biblical characters that might have a particular temperament trait to get everybody in the mindset of how to determine someone’s temperament so that you can avoid offending the other person with too much of your type.
It did not work in two cases. Most of the people had temperaments that were in the majority worldwide, as you would assume. The few that had something unique were taken as lovable quirks, my wife and I included. But there were two that were so opposite everyone else, they stood out. One was my wife’s close friend. The other was the pastor. The two of them seemed to develop a symbiotic relationship on the spot. They determined that the greatest fun to have with their new knowledge was to irritate the entire church membership with their uniqueness. “I don’t care if you do not like it, I AM UNIQUE! Here is a hundred-fold dose of MEEEEE!!!!”
The one who was my wife’s friend suddenly became so unfriendly and obnoxious, that she and my wife parted ways. No harsh words, but the silence became so welcoming when she was not around.
As far as the pastor was concerned, we tolerated him until we found another church to attend. He eventually retired.
And it was all my fault.
I should have read Lewis’ essay earlier. When you have a Bible Study for church members, you go into it assuming that everybody is somewhat near the same page (okay, maybe somewhere in the same book), but that is not always the case. You do not wish to judge, but you might want to apply some wisdom.
And when we deal with one another, each of us is unique in one way or another. Understanding that the other person has one, two or more unique things about them, different than your own, should give us the motivation to love the other as they wished to be loved, instead of the way we wish to be loved.
But as for teaching the course again, I am hesitant. If you are interested, there are many books on the subject. A good starter might be “Please Understand Me” by David Kiersey or go to his website, both with self-assessment tools.
And remember, knowledge is a powerful thing. Use it wisely to spread God’s love and refrain from spreading too much of your unique qualities. Maybe that is what the Apostle John meant when he talked about laying down our lives for our brothers and sisters. We need to die to self, and love with God’s love.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.