An old man was sitting out on his front porch whitlin' and enjoying the sunny day. Into town drove a stranger who stopped in front of the old man's house. The stranger rolled down his car window, stuck his head out and yelled, "Hey, old man, what kind of people are in this town?"
The old gent leaned back, looked at the stranger and said, "Well fella, just what kind of people were there in the town you just came from?"
"Why they were the most unfriendly, unlikable and disagreeable folks you ever saw" the man replied.
"Well," answered the old man, "That's just the kind of people that are in this town." With that answer the stranger roared off out of town and out of sight. A little while later, into town drove another stranger. This man saw the older man on his porch and he pulled up, stopped the car and got out.
"Good afternoon sir. How are you this fine day?" the young man cheerfully called out.
"I'm doin' very well thank you, and it is a mighty fine day" the older man grinned.
"Well sir, I'm a little new around here, mind if I sit and we talk a bit?" the younger man inquired.
"Sure, come on up here and sit" the older man invited.
The younger man ambled up and took a seat on the broad porch.
"Well, there is really just one question I have," he began, "What kind of people are in this town?"
The older man gently smiled, "Well, just what kind of people were in the town you came from?"
"Well sir, they were the friendliest, nicest, most likable folks you'd ever want to meet" the young man eagerly responded.
"Well, my good friend, that's jus' the kind of folks you'll find here."
What kind of people are in this congregation? Psychologists have recognized a fundamental principle in human relations. People tend to criticize in others the very things they dislike about themselves. The man who complains about how difficult everyone else is to get along with has trouble getting along with others. The woman who is constantly criticizing how others raise their children, feels that she did not raise her own children properly.
The Bible recognizes this behavior of self-deception. It is the problem of trying to hide one's own faults by criticizing another. Jesus warned about those who look for specks in others, while they carry a plank in their own eye (Matt. 7:1-5).
Have you ever complained that a congregation or another Christian was unfriendly? Maybe they were not friendly or maybe they were. Instead of complaining how unfriendly others are to me, I need to seriously ask the Lord and myself, "Lord, is it I?" (Matt. 22:26).
Am I the one who turns and looks the other way to keep from speaking to someone? Am I the one who quickly slips into a tight-circle of family or friends and ignore others? Am I the one who races for the door the minute services are over? Am I the one who refuses to speak unless the other person speaks first. When I accuse another of being unfriendly, am I being unfriendly?
Jesus told speck seekers, "You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye" (Matt. 7:5).
The wise man of Proverbs provided a solution on how to handle those we think are unfriendly! "A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly" (Prov. 18:24).
If you think someone is unfriendly to you, then you need to become more friendly. Maybe the person you think is unfriendly is just shy. Maybe they are waiting for you to speak first. Maybe they are thinking about other things. Maybe they have troubles and burdens that are bothering them.
"Many will entreat the favour of the prince: and every man is a friend to him that giveth gifts" (Prov. 19:6). If you want others to be your friends and friendly to you, you must be generous, loving and giving to them. Those who see all others as unfriendly are unwilling to give what it takes to receive friendliness. Receivers of friendliness are givers of warm smiles, hearty handshakes and kind encouraging words.
Don't wait for the other person to approach and talk to you, walk up and talk to them. Smile and be friendly. You'll be amazed how friendly people, who you thought were unfriendly, can be.
Before I complain about other people, I need to see if I am part of the problem. If the congregation is unfriendly then it is up to me to be friendly and to change it. Then I can say, "This congregation has the friendliest, nicest, most likeable folks you'd ever want to meet!"