It’s People I Can’t Stand
by Pastor George Van Alstine

Our current Sunday morning sermon series is entitled “Shaped by Relationships,” and the theme verse is “As iron sharpens iron, so one person helps shape another” (Proverbs 27:17). We’ve been using Biblical examples of one-on-one relationships to show why and how interactions with people near us are used by God to form us into persons he can use for his purposes. So far, we’ve studied Adam and Eve, Esther and Mordecai, Jacob and Esau, David and Jonathan, Elijah and Jezebel, and each week we’ve studied some new aspect of how we may be affected by close relationships, whether they seem loving or antagonistic.

One of Charlie Brown’s most famous quotes is

“I love mankind; it’s people I can’t stand.”

Charlie is a true humanitarian. He cares about those who are powerless in society: poor people, babies, dogs. But he has his troubles with individuals. The biting tongue of Lucy can immediately reduce him to a puddle of self-loathing. Linus, still young enough to need his security blanket, is at the same time worldly-wise enough to intimidate Charlie. Peppermint Patty’s affection for him makes him feel overwhelmed. Even Snoopy seems to remind him of his inadequacies.

So Charlie claims that he “can’t stand” people — individual people. Of course we who have come to know Charlie through many “Peanuts” cartoons realize that each of these difficult relationships plays an important part in making him the lovable person he is. Even Lucy, a really sharp piece of “iron” (see the Proverbs verse), is a positive influence on Charlie, rather than cutting him into pieces. Without a strong Lucy, we wouldn’t realize that Charlie is able to take whatever challenge life throws at him. He isn’t the hopeless wimp he sometimes appears to be, because he keeps popping up again, ready to be optimistic in the face of yet another verbal barrage from Lucy. God has used each of the individual people Charlie claims he “can’t stand” to shape him into the one-and-only Charlie Brown.

Take a look at the relationships in your life. Each one has a function, and those that are most near and prominent have the most decisive effect in shaping you. Some may be people you love; some people you don’t even consider to be friendly. Even those you love can get on your nerves sometimes, leading you to conclude, with Charlie Brown,

“I love mankind; it’s people I can’t stand.”

Learn to rejoice in every person who has an effect on your life. Learn to see each as a tool in God’s hand shaping and sharpening you for his service.

Charlie Brown himself has been a positive shaping influence in the lives of millions of readers who have visited his cartoon world. I wonder how many people God will touch through you if you allow yourself to be shaped by those individuals he has placed in your path.