Familiarity Breeds Contempt... or Love.


Some thoughts to spur us all on… passed along…

Familiarity breeds contempt... or love. Your choice.

Relationships that have gone on for several years, almost by definition, have a deep, shared familiarity. That familiarity can bear bad fruit, but it can also bear really good fruit, if acted upon rightly. And while “breeding contempt” is the proverbial end, it doesn’t need to be full out contempt to be damaging to one or both parties. Familiarity can blind us to sin and it can also blind us to change and miracles.

One way that familiarity can be hurtful is summed up in the phrase, “Oh that’s just the way they are.” Imagine a decades-long relationship between two people, Person A and Person B. When some characteristic of “person A” isn’t like Jesus, whether an attitude or affection or habit, it may, over time, irritate “person B.” That is where the classic contempt can happen. But beyond that... what if something is clearly not like Jesus and person B has gotten so used to it, that they are not irritated by it (maybe they never were), but they simply just “accept” that that is how person A is and they assume that is how person A will always be.

Do you see how utterly damaging that is? Person B has forfeited ground to the enemy because they have allowed their own familiarity with person A to become the standard. In the same way that you and I can become numb and dull to the sin in our own life by not acting on conviction, it is possible to become dull to the sin in someone else’s life by not actively trying to help, either by asking them about it right away or watching and praying until the right moment. Maybe person B noticed it at one point, but due to fear or laziness, they never crossed that line of love and mentioned it to person A. And like a corner too often rubbed, the edge is gone and all that remains is a dull, rounded surface. Not good. The mutual exhortation that is part of the core purpose of the ekklesia, the church, must never be neglected in this way.

Similar but different... consider how Jesus was rejected by those in His hometown. Because of their familiarity with Jesus, they found it impossible to see the Spirit’s work in His Life. It caused them to have such little faith, that Jesus could do few miracles there. What about you and me? Are we so familiar with those we are around on a daily basis that we no longer believe they are capable of supernatural change? “Isn’t that just Joseph’s son?” Familiarity can make it hard to believe changes are real. And furthermore, it is then possible to deny or push down the authentic work of the Spirit in someone’s life, which is a very damaging thing to do. When all you see is “according to the flesh,” then you miss the miracle God has done and *is doing* in them. It is so, so crucial to give each other the Liberty to change and be Different. (Side note: be very hesitant to ever joke about some former sinful characteristic in a person. Behold, all things are new). In fact, love hopes all things... a true brother or sister is praying for and expecting to see change and growth and movement from one degree of glory to another.

One way familiarity can breed love is just doing the inverse of the above. For example, when Person B is SO FAMILIAR with Person A, then the slightest changes in mood or look on the face can be an indicator that Help is needed. Familiarity gives us certain tools to be our brother’s keeper in a way that a total stranger possibly could never detect.

Familiarity can also allow us to not overreact to someone’s sin, but instead, to patiently help. While we do not want to do nothing and so become dull (as mentioned above), we can cover over and help gently lead them to higher ground when we see a certain lower tendency or pattern about to run its course. We can use our familiarity and knowledge of the “sin that so easily besets” them, to sharpen our skills in loving them in very specific ways.

And lastly, familiarity allows us to bring the perfect gift at the perfect time. When you really know someone, you can find ways to encourage their heart, lighten their load or simply bring a smile to their face.

Let’s together just simply do this:

Speaking the truth in love, grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:15-16

But exhort one another each day, as long as it is called “Today,” that none of you may become hardened by sin’s deception. Hebrews 3:13

English Languages icon
 Share icon