ulo Sarli writes from Campinas, Brazil. He is producer and speaker of two radio programs in Brazil.

I know that many times it is not easy to get along with people in the congregation or accept certain ideas that we feel to be quite naive. Sometimes it is just a question of difference in personality, sometimes it is a question of prejudice created in some specific circumstances, but in all cases it is a question of the lack of acceptance spirit so clearly shown in the figure of the father in the parable of the Prodigal son told by Jesus. (Luke 15: 11-31).

As leader you will be many times challenged in accepting ideas and people you don't like. In case you face such a situation I recommend you look at the way Jesus dealt with different people who were bothersome.

A leper and a demon-possessed maniac two people no one would choose to associate with, especially in Jesus' day. Both were outcasts of society. Jesus allowed both to come to Him.

More likely they grabbed His garments or legs as they knelt (Mark 1:40-44; 5:1-20).

Consider Peter or Judas. Neither of these men was particularly lovable. Peter blustered about like a bull in a china shop. Judas sneaked about, stealing from the common pot and ultimately betrayed Jesus.

The leper came and pleaded for healing. Jesus "stretched out His hand, and touched him, and said; "I am willing; be cleansed" (Mark 1:41). In an instant, before their eyes, the leprosy disappeared, and the man was clean.

In Mark 5 the demon-possessed man from the G

adarenes ran out of the tombs. At night people heard his eerie wailing as he threw himself about and gashed himself with stones. The man could not even speak. Rather, the demons spoke, "What do I have to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?" (Mark 5:7).

Think of the scene. The maniac is grasping Christ's robe. His eyes are frantic, his hair matted with blood and dirt, his clothes, such as they were, smelled of the tombs and sweat and blood.

Jesus welcomed him and healed him. The people came 'and observed the man who had been demon-possessed sitting down, clothed and in his right mind' (Mark 5:15).

How did Jesus do it? How could He endure so many difficult people? How can we? Or should we?

A part of living under the lordship of Christ is allowing unlovable people into our lives, people whom we would never choose on our own. They enter our lives, often like a storm, disturbing our tranquility and testing our patience.

Paul gives us some guidelines on dealing with these people: "Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to his edification . . . Wherefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God." (Romans 15:1-2, 7)

The first requisite for loving the unlovable is to realize how Christ accepted you.

Where would you be today without Him? What if His acceptance had been conditional? Realize that right now Christ fully accepts you as you are, full of imperfections and problems, all of which He completely knows.

The second requisite emerges from a basic decision to accept everyone God brings across your path.

In God's plan there are no accidental meetings. In each encounter God has a purpose for both the needy person and for you. You may be the one who can really help and counsel that person.

Determine to be an encouragement to everyone whom God brings across your path. It costs little to say a kind word and to communicate a sense of support. But like the girl who doesn't want to encourage a suitor, we fear that kind words will lead to further demands. Such is the risk.

One great help to me is to recall how people hurt me. As a young high school student I remember a particularly painful interview with an Army captain. I traveled by train from Campinas to Sao Paulo. There I stayed at a little hotel. At stake was the continuation of my education. I was nervous and self-conscious. My white shirt was one of those old drip-dry kinds with the collar wrinkled and looking just like what it was a cheap shirt.

My blue suit was, at best, acceptable. My black shoes were old-fashioned. It was clear that I did not come from a socially conscious home. I knew just enough to know that I didn't look quite right.

The interview is still painful to recall. I felt much put down. In my application I had stated that I liked music. The captain began to ask questions about classical music. Where was Bach born? I didn't know. And so it went through the interview. It was disastrous. The captain may not have intended to intimidate me. He probably was doing his job picking the most poised and the one with the best leadership potential. I think I was at least in the "unlikable" class. That memory helps me remember not to put anyone down because of how they look or their lack of poise.

Through the years others have so graciously put up with my pestering personality. I asked skeptical questions in college classes. I'm certain I exasperated my professors. In my early years, I know I was abrasive and demanding. Many of my friends graciously ignored these signs, helping me to grow. I am grateful for those who were patient with me. Even today, 1 know that 1 can irritate people of a particular personality type, yet they accept me.

I appreciate the instruction of Hebrews 13:

"Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoner, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering." (Hebrews 13:1-3, NIV)

We never know where a kindness will lead, because only God can see the potential of that man or woman in our presence.

Through the years, my wife and I have encountered many people in our ministry who were not easy to love. Yet today we see many who are in places of responsibility both in the secular and Christian world. They grew and developed. God worked in their lives and burnished the rough edges.

What a blessing to see them today! May God help us as leaders to totally love and accept every person He brings across our path, as Christ totally loves and accepts us. May He bring our human responses under His lordship?

Paulo Sarli writes from Campinas, Brazil. He is producer and speaker of two radio programs in Brazil.

ulo Sarli writes from Campinas, Brazil. He is producer and speaker of two radio programs in Brazil.