Love us or Like Us
Steve Sjorgen wrote in his book, Changing the World through Kindness
Not long after we moved [into our first house in California], my wife, Janie, and I picked up on the tension between a couple of neighbors. One was a very outspoken churchgoer, while the other was an unbeliever. I knew I was in the hot seat when the unchurched man struck up a conversation with me as we were both working in our yards.
"Say, Steve, aren't you a pastor?" It seems implicit in the public's understanding that pastors exist to serve as referees in times of conflict, so I reluctantly listened as this troubled man opened up about the neighbor he'd never understood. He unfolded a long history of numerous conflicts over small issues. …
Then he looked up and sighed, "But the most recent problem takes the cake. We received a letter from his attorney threatening to sue us if we don't trim a tree that borders his yard. It seems strange he didn't just come over and ask me to take care of the tree before he went to his attorney." …
With a little wink this streetwise unchurched man continued, "You know, I was getting ready to trim that tree, but now there's no way I'm going to do anything until he forces me. I will gladly go to court just so I can have a story to tell about being sued by Christians over an orange tree." He summarized his thoughts with a haunting observation: "I guess sometimes Christians love us—they just don't like us.
Now church, that’s what’s out there. We are criticized, sometimes legitimately, for being reactionary, self-absorbed, and hypocritical. The only way to overcome the noisy criticism is to submit with godly fear, and to serve with focused love.