Do you remember lessons on the common denominator? There are two uses of this phrase:
- a number that is a multiple of all the denominators of a set of fractions
- a common trait or characteristic shared in differing situations
While I am sure you checked out this blog in order to sharpen your math skills, I actually wanted to talk with you about the second definition. I wanted to unpack a thought I’ve been pondering over the last few months.
I hear many stories each day. In my profession as a pastor, I often hear many disheartening stories. I am sought to provide counsel for those struggling in life. I love the opportunity to do that. I am honored to walk through life with hurting people.
It’s difficult to know how to help people when things are beyond their control & within their control at the same time.
Everyone goes through things beyond their control. People go through situations they cannot change. It hurts. It is unfair. For those things, I just want to comfort them and tell them it will be OK.
Then there are those situations that are within their control. They are going through stuff because they made unfortunate decisions. In those moments, I am biting my lip to ensure I don’t say the first thing that comes to my mind.
I struggle with wanting to comfort someone for what they can’t help & wanting to shake them for what they can help.
What Seems to Be the Problem?
If you have ever known someone who seems to be down about everything, you may have noticed a specific trend.
No matter what restaurant they go to, the food is awful. The service is terrible. The place hadn’t been cleaned in weeks. They got your order wrong. The waitress was incompetent. And on and on and on it goes. What is interesting is it seems to be this way at every restaurant this particular person visits.
Well, this relationship didn’t treat me right. This other one was so negative. This person never appreciated me. I think that one was a little crazy. Out of all the relationships, friendships, or marriages, it seems that every person that this person comes into contact with is the issue. Every single time.
You know what this church did to me? You won’t believe what that pastor said to me. They do this too much. They don’t do that enough. I am just fed up with all churches. Amazingly, every church that this specific person goes to has issues. Interesting.
The Common Denominator Is You
If everyone else in the world is the problem in your mind, maybe you need to look for the common denominator. If every person and every group and every situation that you engage has issues, maybe it is time to see if there is a common variable in each situation.
If everyone & everything else is the problem, it’s time to accept that the common denominator is me.
I know no one is perfect. No group is perfect. No church is perfect. But we each need to take an honest look and see if all the issues seem to arise when we arrive. Am I the problem?
If complicated issues seem to arrive everywhere I go, I need to discern if I am the one bringing them.
It’s time to look at grace, mercy, forgiveness, and acceptance. It is time for us to offer as much as we have received. And it is time to own up to our responsibility in the matters.
If I am not the problem, there is no solution.
I think Jesus can help us in this area. Since I am the common denominator in all my issues, it is time for me to get help from the one who made all things better.
Matthew 7:1 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Distinctive Discipleship. He is married to Amanda and the father of two sons and one daughter. Travis graduated from North Greenville University with a B.A. in Christian Studies and earned his M.Div. and D.Min. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, with his doctoral focus on family discipleship.