Recognizing personality differences

A subject of ever increasing importance with the passing of time, wherever two or more persons are associated in service, whether in families, churches, schools, conferences, institutions, or var­ious kinds of business, is personality problems.

Retired Minister, Lodi, California

A subject of ever increasing importance with the passing of time, wherever two or more persons are associated in service, whether in families, churches, schools, conferences, institutions, or var­ious kinds of business, is personality problems.

In fact, association problems are so serious that in most of the large industrial organizations, including some of our own Seventh-day Adventist institutions, person­nel managers are chosen to help solve them. And because nations have the same difficulties as people in getting along together on the same planet, the United Nations organization was brought into being, and what a time they usually have in settling their problems! It is largely because people are all so different in background, history, and racial distinctions.

All personality problems would be greatly lessened, and in many cases would disappear, if everybody would remember and never forget that no two persons are alike and never will they be. A woman was heard saying, "I have eleven children, and not two of them are alike." Her tone of voice indicated that to her this was very unusual, but if she had several times that number no two of them would be alike. There are no "identical twins" unless it be in physical appearance. In all other respects the distinction is evident.

No one will ever have to be concerned about meeting himself, or his likeness, double, or duplicate, for such a person does not, and never will, exist. In fact, if such a thing could happen it would be a tragedy in the first place, because one of a kind is enough; and in the second place, because it would be a reflection on the omniscient wisdom and omnipotent power of the Creator.

God never intended that there should be any duplicates among human beings, or the creatures in the animal and vegetable kingdoms. Scientific research has revealed the fact that there are no two animals, birds, fish, plants, flowers, or trees alike; or even the limbs, twigs, or leaves on trees. Not even two spears of grass are identical. A certain man has taken more than 10,000 photographs of snowfiakes under the microscope and found that each was a dis­tinct work of art different from all others.

Paul declared that "one star differeth from another star in glory," a well-known fact in modern astronomical science that has caused the evolutionary nebula-hypothesis to be virtually abandoned.

The Creator does not have to imitate or duplicate as does man. Hundreds of houses are patterned after the same blueprint, thousands of cars come off the assembly line exactly alike, and millions of identical gadgets and articles are produced by manufacturing plants. On the other hand, it is estimated that since Adam 150 billion people have lived on the earth, each with an individuality distinct from all others. The same is true of the angelic host and the inhabitants of the unnumbered unfallen worlds.

It is unfortunate that so many people, including some ministers and other church leaders, fail to recognize this distinction and therefore have a great burden to make everybody else exactly like themselves. This is the chief identifying characteristic of fanatics and extremists who are anxious to persuade others to eat and dress and act alike in accordance with their own peculiar ideas. Such a course is clearly condemned in the instruction which they often twist to their own purpose.

No Two Lives or Minds Alike

In regard to the subject under consideration the following quotations are to the point: "There are no two leaves of a tree precisely alike, neither do all minds run in the same direction. But while this is so, there may be unity in diversity. . . . We are not all fitted to do the same kind of work, but each man's work is designed by God to help make up His plan."—Ellen G. White comments on 1 Cor. 1:10, SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1083.

The vine has many branches, but though all the branches are different, they do not quarrel. In diversity there is unity. . . . The perfection of thechurch depends not on each member being fash­ioned exactly alike.—Ibid., p. 1090.

Every individual has a life distinct from all oth­ers, and an experience differing essentially from theirs. God desires that our praise shall ascend to Him, marked by our own individuality.—The Desire of Ages, p. 347.

The unity that exists between Christ and His dis­ciples does not destroy the personality of either. They are one in purpose, in mind, in character, but not in person. It is thus that God and Christ are one.—Testimonies, vol. 8, p. 269.

There are rights which belong to every individual. We have an individuality and an identity that is our own. No one can submerge his identity in that of any other. All must act for themselves, ac­cording to the dictates of their own conscience.— Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 56.

This distinction in personality will con­tinue with the redeemed through all eternity: "Our personal identity is preserved in the resurrection, though not the same par­ticles of matter or material substance as went into the grave. ... In the resurrection every man will have his own character."— Ellen G. White comments on 1 Cor. 15:45-52, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1093. Surely these statements should be sufficient to prove the point under consideration.

The apostle Paul recognized this distinction when he wrote to the divided and quarreling members of the church of Cor­inth. Some were saying, "I am of Paul," others, "I am of Apollos," and still others, "I am of Cephas," or Peter. The membership was divided into Paulites, Apollosites, and Peterites, and the apostles told them they were acting like spoiled children and therefore ought to be fed with "the milk of the word," rather than "strong meat," which was the spiritual food for adults and men and women of maturity. He asked them the question, "For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7).

In other words, the apostle said: "Don't you know that God made all of you different, and that everything you have in talents and capabilities was a gift from God?" Paul and Apollos and Peter were created in different molds, with different talents to ac­complish different missions. Therefore, to create a schism over them and their work gave evidence of immaturity, and the same is true when there are divisions because of the likes and dislikes of the members in regard to God's ministering servants.

There is really nothing original about any of us. Since all of our knowledge is borrowed from others and has its source in the One in whom "are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge," we have absolutely nothing to boast about. We are told that God has given "to every man his work," as well as the ability to perform it. The Holy Spirit, as the administrator of the church in Christ's stead, distributes the spiritual gifts "to every man severally as he will." If every member would fulfill the mission appointed him of God, there would be no jealousy or divisions, for no two persons would be doing the same thing in the same way.

New Names of Redeemed in New Earth

It is because of these distinct personalities that the redeemed will each be given "a new name" to describe his character. In Isaiah 62:2 we read, "Thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name," and in Revelation 2:17, "No man knoweth" this new name "saving he that receiveth it." This does not mean that others cannot pronounce it, but that only the one who receives it can compre­hend its full meaning because it is a descrip­tion of his character, which is different from all others. Through all eternity none will ever meet another with the same name either among the redeemed or unfallen beings.

The situation at Corinth was so serious that Apollos left and refused to return, and it is evident that Paul and Peter departed sooner than they otherwise would. Therefore, because of their childishness, the quarreling Corinthians lost the services of all three of their favorites. Similar situa­tions in our day make changes in church leadership wise and necessary, even when the persons involved are in no wise to blame, as in the case under consideration.

Young preachers should never attempt to become like older ministers whom they greatly admire; first, because such a thing would be impossible, and in the second place, because it would be contrary to the plan of God. Each person should be himself and himself only. It is pathetic that so many ministers have at least partially thwarted the plan of God by their efforts to imitate others in their voice, gestures, and manner of speaking and working. For this reason it is unwise to leave young men under the molding influence of older men too long. In the matter of making another a model to imitate, it is well to remember that a model is defined as "a miniature imitation of the real thing." And never should even the most talented leader be left to mold the work in one church or field too long. In regard to this matter very definite counsel had been given us through a source we should not question.

Here is another significant quotation: "Why do we need a Matthew, a Mark, a Luke, a John, a Paul, and all the writers who have borne testimony in regard to the life and ministry of the Saviour? Why could not one of the disciples have written a complete record, and thus have given us a con­nected account of Christ's earthly life? Why does one writer bring in points that another does not mention? Why, if these points are essential, did not all these writers mention them? It is because the minds of men differ. Not all comprehend things in exactly the same way. Certain Scripture truths appeal much more strongly to the minds of some than of others. The same principle applies to speakers. One dwells at considerable length on points that others would pass by quickly or not mention at all. The whole truth is presented more clearly by several than by one. The Gospels differ, but the records of all blend in one har­monious whole."-—Counsel to Parents and Teachers, p. 432.

Broadening Influence of Association

This distinction in personality makes life very interesting, so that each person we meet brings a new experience and adven­ture. Therefore the more persons we meet and associate with, the better, as it has a broadening and educational influence. The pastor is the spiritual leader of the entire church, embracing every member, and never should he permit himself to be under special obligation to any person or persons for any reason whatever. Also he should avoid becoming too intimate with individuals or families. He must not become a respecter of persons, but should endeavor to treat all alike, even though he naturally is drawn toward some more than others.

This personality distinction is so important that the Lord has divided His people into twelve tribes in this life, which will become the twelve nations of the redeemed in the kingdom of glory. Through all eternity they will be ruled by the twelve apostle-kings, and each nation will go in and out of the New Jerusalem through a gate over which is inscribed the name of the tribe or nation. Beneath each section of the city will be a separate foundation on which can be read the name of the apostle who is the king of that nation, and which can be read through the transparent golden pavement of the streets.

When the pastor and members of a church recognize these personality distinctions they become more tolerant, sympa­thetic, and understanding in their contacts and dealings with each other, and many of the otherwise puzzling problems are solved. When changes in leadership are made, no pastor should be deceived in regard to his popularity by the tears and remarks of a group, for they are chiefly members of his own tribe and therefore constitute only a fraction of the entire membership. The others may express their appreciation for his ministry and say they were greatly benefited spiritually, while in their hearts they believe the change to be wise, and hope the next pastor is a member of their own tribe. It would greatly benefit a church if twelve pastors could be chosen in succession who are members of the twelve tribes.

We have another significant quotation on the subject, written under divine in­spiration: "There can be no stronger evi­dence in churches that the truths of the Bible have not sanctified the receivers than their attachment to some favorite minister, and their unwillingness to accept and be profited by the labors of some other teacher who is sent to them in the providence of God. ... It is seldom that one minister has all the qualifications necessary to perfect any one church in all the requirements of Christianity; therefore God sends other ministers to follow him, one after another, each one possessing some qualifications in which the others were deficient. . . . But the ministers themselves are not to be idolized; there should be no religious pets and favorites among the people."—Ellen G. White comments on 1 Cor. 3:4-9, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1086.

Finally, because of these personality distinctions and the problems they produce, we must recognize the imperative need of the presence and power and leadership of the Holy Spirit, who is the great unifier and personnel manager of the church militant. He alone can produce "unity in diversity." This was wonderfully demonstrated in apostolic days under the early rain of spiritual power. Miraculous changes took place in the disciples during the ten days in the upper room, bringing disunited men into perfect unity even though they all retained their distinct personalities. This experience is to be repeated during the spirit­ual revival that brings the latter rain, when Pentecost will be repeated, but with greater power. That this experience is our greatest need as ministers and members no one can question. May none of us be satisfied until Romans 9:28 is fulfilled, and through the Holy Spirit, God will "finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth."


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Retired Minister, Lodi, California

July 1960

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