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Sandpaper People

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves (Romans 12:10, NIV).


We live in a problem-filled world. However, you will be thrilled to know I have discovered the biggest problem of all – people. In my opinion, if there were fewer people, there would be fewer problems. Every day, we face the daunting challenge of getting along with people. Some make it easy, and some don’t. Some are kind and encouraging, and replenishing, while others drive us to the brink of insanity and beyond.


One Sunday morning, a Sunday school teacher, in the process of teaching the Ten Commandments to her third-grade class, asked the question, “Last week we learned the commandment to honor your father and mother. Can anyone tell me if there is one that refers to brothers and sisters?” A little girl’s hand immediately shot up. When the teacher called on her to give an answer, the anxious youngster quickly responded, “Yes, there is a commandment just about brothers. The one that says, ‘Thou shalt not kill!’”


Let’s be honest – some people are simply more difficult to get along with than others. They “rub” us the wrong way. I call them “sandpaper people.” We try to change them, run from them, ignore them, and even take a stab at fixing them. But what would happen if we made the choice to serve them?


I know. The last thing I usually want to do is serve someone who is hard to get along with. In fact, shouldn’t these “sandpaper people” be serving me in order to make up for all of the grief they have caused? Sounds right, doesn’t it? God has a different plan – a higher plan that produces supernatural results. It is called service.


In his letter to the church in Rome the Apostle Paul defined true service when he said that we are to “be devoted to one another in brotherly love” and “honor one another” (Romans 12:10, NIV). In this verse, “devotion” indicates commitment and duty and carries the idea of a constant faithfulness that deliberately chooses repeatedly to serve. To “honor” someone means to “prefer” him or her or regard them as more important than ourselves. Honestly, most sandpaper people are used to people preferring that they disappear.


Sandpaper people are hard to serve and hard to help because they rarely, if ever, think of themselves as someone in need. The needs of others are not high on their priority list but control and power are. To manipulate is to succeed. Sandpaper people honestly believe that the world does or should revolve around them. It doesn’t seem to matter if the audience is applauding or jeering. Either way, they win. Why would God ask us to serve the very people who drive us crazy - the people who are so hard to love and seem to constantly wreak emotional havoc in our lives?


Choosing to serve a difficult person demands that we lay down our pride and our rights and deliberately choose to identify and meet a need in that person’s life. We then become a conduit through which His love can flow to reach and transform that hard-to-love person. When we dare to serve a sandpaper person, it rocks their world. They are accustomed to scratching and clawing their way to a false and shallow acceptance. Sandpaper people find it almost impossible to believe that anyone would ever be willing to serve them in any way. That kind of chosen love is foreign to them but it certainly grabs their attention. I wonder what our world would look like if we made the choice to love and serve the sandpaper people in our lives.



Taken from Mary Southerland’s book, Sandpaper People.

For more information, visit Mary’s website: