Summary: This message from my youth ministry days was my attempt to explain the reasons some churches were unfriendly and some individuals were thoughtless with regards to the feelings of others in the church. The text is 1 Peter 3:8-18
Thick Skinned and Tender-hearted
TEXT: I Peter 3:8-18
“I was a stranger in the city. The church sign read, ‘Welcome‘, so I went in. I smiled at the Sunday school children as they rushed to their classes. Neither they nor their parents greeted me. After I sat down, an elderly woman sat beside me. We exchanged names and shook hands. Another woman joined us, saying it was nice weather. After singing a few songs we went to class. No one spoke to me.”
“After Sunday school, everyone rushed to the worship service. The service included hearty singing, prayer and a beautiful duet. The minister welcomed Mrs. So-and-So then said, ‘I don’t see anyone else I don’t know’ and went on with the announcements. After closing prayer, I waited expectantly to meet someone but over 100 worshippers filed out, not even pausing to say, ‘It was good that you came today.’ Big words in the bulletin said, ‘Welcome, we are glad you came. Come often.’ But all I could think was, ‘I was a stranger and you took me not in.’” (Taken from “Was This Your Church” by A. D. Schanz)
Have you ever had this experience while away from home visiting a strange church? Have you ever wondered what causes some churches to be warm and friendly while others are cold and impersonal?
We will examine this problem as we study I Peter 3:8-18. [read text]
Today, I want to show an important quality for any Christian who wants to be useful to God. The title for this message is: “Thick Skinned and Tender Hearted” but first, we will need to examine why some people are just the opposite. What causes some Christians to be -- thin skinned and hard hearted.
I. THIN SKINNED AND HARD HEARTED
There are several underlying reasons why some Christians become thin skinned and hard hearted; they have developed attitudes that make them that way. We are going to explore a few of the reasons for this over-sensitivity and callousness.
A. an attitude of “Pride”
B. an attitude of “Thoughtlessness”
C. an attitude of “Selfishness”
Pride is perhaps one of the biggest hindrances to a friendly concerned church. The reason why pride is so detrimental is because pride produces fear of rejection by others. Many people in the church have at one time or another experienced rejection from someone in the church.
Someone didn’t respond to their move of friendliness and because they were hurt, they weren’t about to risk rejection again. The result is that these people now make a point of keeping a measure of “coolness” in their friendliness so no one will think they are reaching out for friendship or that they need acceptance.
However, we need to remember that even Christ experienced rejection and the apostle Paul was not always loved in return. Paul once wrote to the Corinthians telling them in II Corinthians 6:11-13 --
“We have spoken freely to you Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are with-holding yours from us. As a fair exchange--I speak as to my children--open wide your hearts also.”
In verse 8 of our text today, we are exhorted to be like one big happy family; and what is the major characteristic of a big happy family? Acceptance.
Everyone is looking for acceptance from a person or a group of people somewhere in the world, and though these people might find rejection, they certainly should not find rejection in the Church. The Church should be a perfect picture of warmth, love and acceptance. If this does not characterize the Church or certain elements in the Church, then a change is in order.
Marion Jacobsen, author of a book entitled, “Crowded Pews and Lonely People”, said this about acceptance in the Church, “Such a transformation probably would do more to attract others to Jesus Christ than any house-to-house canvas, evangelistic campaign or new church facility. People are hungry for acceptance, love and friends and unless they find them in the church thy may not stay there long enough to become personally related to Christ.”
She also said that, “The first 10 minutes a visitor spends in church, and how he is treated in that time, will determine whether or not he ever comes back.’
The second cause of thin-skinned, hard-hearted people is thoughtlessness. The problem is simply what the name implies. Some Christians never stop to think about the results of their actions. This is the “hard-hearted” part of their nature.
Most blow-ups and misunderstandings in the church are not the result of outright wickedness or cruelty on the part of an individual; these problems come about as a result of mere thoughtlessness.
It is thoughtlessness or insensitivity that produces “cliques” in churches. Let’s face it, everyone has good friends who they enjoy being with. Even Christ had three apostles He felt closer to out of the twelve and John was referred to as "the one Christ loved" (John 13:23). He was closest to Jesus and sat next to Him at the Last Supper. The problem comes when people enjoy their close friends so much that they seek out fellowship only with them to the exclusion of others.