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I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Ps. 138:14. NIV
Many of us have shopped in big box stores like Walmart, Staples, Home Depot, etc. The thing about big box stores is that every store in the chain is the same. They have the same colour scheme, the same uniforms, the same products, the same policies, etc. You can walk into one on the East Coast, then travel to the West Coast and step into a different one. The only unique thing may be the accents of the people working there.
Sometimes we are tempted to carry this big box store mentality into the Christian life. We have a picture in our minds of what an ‘ideal’ Christian should be. We measure ourselves and others by this ideal.
Christianity is about maturity in uniqueness, not about conformity to an often unrealistic ideal. God has wonderfully made each one of us different. Yes, there are laws and principles to which we must all conform. Obviously, we recognize that we must all come to God through the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross. Through allowing the Holy Spirit to work in our lives, we are all in the process of sanctification and look forward to the day when it is complete.
What God has done is given us a Foundation [Jesus Christ] to build on and the structure [His Law] in which to build. However, on that Foundation and within that structure there is a lot of room for variety. It is good to take time to examine our unique personality and character.
Some people are introverts; others are extroverts. People may be Choleric [ambitious, fast-paced, take charge], Sanguine [fun-loving, friendly, dreamer], Melancholic [creative, dependable, organized] or Phlegmatic [compassionate, calm, self-confident]. Actually, we are all a unique combination of all of these, with one or two usually being dominate. This does not change when we become Christians! Yes, Jesus was the perfect balance of them all, but we are all designed to express an aspect of Jesus in our own special way for His glory.
Many times we recognize this distinctness when we think about talents and abilities. But this follows through to every aspect of life. For example, we should all have a care and concern for the Lost, but some Christians will excel at evangelism, and some will not. We should all spend time studying the Word of God and praying, but for some, it is going to be much more intense.
Sometimes we recognize the good that another Christian is doing, we know it is Scriptural, so we want to be like them and criticize ourselves when we fail. For example, we may see a brother or sister who seems to win people to Christ with hardly any effort. We may have been unable to win a single person to Christ. Our feelings are not helped if the person who is successful in that area has an ‘if I can do it, anybody can do it’ attitude. That is simply not true. What is easy for one person to do - usually after practicing and failing many times - may be difficult or impossible for another person to do.
This also goes into the area of temptations. By recognizing our unique personalities, we may recognize which temptations we are especially vulnerable to and guard ourselves against them. Choleric people may be stubborn, impatient, and intolerant. Sanguine personalities may be self-involved, unrealistic, and easily bored. Melancholic individuals may have to watch out for worry, depression, and criticizing others. Phlegmatic people can be intimidated, have feelings easily hurt, and resist change. Of course, these [and many more] temptations can strike anyone, but certain types of people are more prone to them than others. We need to not only recognize our weakness, but also the weaknesses of others so that we can help strengthen and protect them.
Our goal as Christians is not to reach some idolized perfect image of what a Christian should be. Our goal is to know God and develop in maturity. In this journey, we recognize the unique way that God has made us with its distinct strengths and weaknesses. We also work avoid the temptation to want everyone to be the same [like us?].
I’ll give you a personal example. I know I don’t do this too often! I come from a Christian tradition where Christians do not drink alcohol. I moved to a new community several years ago, and many Christians here drink wine and beer in moderation. I know that there is nothing in Scripture [the structure] which forbids drinking alcohol in moderation. Am I changing my way of living? No. Do I expect them to change theirs? No. Do we look down on each other because of our difference? No. As long as a person’s life is built on the Foundation, and their activities are within the Structure, there should be no problem.