Let’s admit it. Most of us think that if other people only knew what we knew and lived the way we lived, they’d be better people – like us. This belief is based on the assumption that there is only one logical response to facing life. And of course, OUR response is the only logical response.
Just look at the way we critique and try to change people who view life through a different set of lenses than we do. We attack their logic and criticize their behavior, confident that the only explanation for their problems is because they are not more like “ME.”
You see this in families. A dad loves to go camping. He gives his wife and kids fifteen reasons why outdoor living is good for them, plus a story about how much he used to hate it until he gave it a try. So they give it a try. They still prefer Disneyland.
When it comes to spirituality, we do the same thing. We have a hard time accepting expressions of Christianity that are different than our own. Depending on your theological beliefs or personality type, it's very easy to label the other guys as being too sheltered or too worldly, too strict or too liberal, too rigid or too casual, sold out or compromised, too hard or watered down, too zealous or just a nominal Christian.
But the truth is everyone of us are wired differently, uniquely created by God Himself to be that way. And the differences between personality types and how each one expresses their spirituality – even within the same congregation – should be celebrated for its diversity, not condemned.
Consider the differences between Jesus and John the Baptist. They were from the same family (they were cousins, and they were both in God's family), yet two people could not have been more different from one another than these two. John lived in isolation waiting for people to come to him; Jesus traveled from town to town seeking out sinners. John followed a strict religious diet and fulfilled the rigors of a Nazarite vow; Jesus attended parties, lots of parties, and was known for turning water into wine!
The religious establishment condemned them both. They rejected John as a kook, a crazy man who didn't understand their spiritually privileged position as descendants of Abraham. They also blew off Jesus as a rouge rabbi and friend of sinners.
Finally Jesus had enough. He told the Pharisees that they were like a bunch of spoiled children calling out to one another in the market place, never satisfied with anyone or anything. When someone played the flute, the instrument of celebration, they wouldn't dance. When someone sang a funeral song, they wouldn't cry. No matter what, they couldn't be pleased.
The Pharisees responded to John's ministry of self-denial and isolation by claiming he had a demon. And they responded to Jesus' accessibility and openness by branding Him a party animal - a glutton, drunkard, winebibber, and too close a friend of sinners.
Jesus told them they had it all wrong. Both He and John the Baptist were pleasing to the Father, despite the radical differences in their approach to ministry and lifestyle. And the wisdom of each of their paths was proven to be right by the fruit of their ministry.
Let's be clear. The most important thing in pleasing God is NOT a particular approach to spirituality or style of ministry; it's the FRUIT of ones life that MATTERS. And on that account, both John and Jesus passed with flying colors. The Father was pleased with both of them.
That should put to bed, once and for all, our attempts to create a one-size-fits-all approach to spirituality.