The expression “familiarity breeds contempt” is all too familiar. Yet, as the case with many common sayings, we might benefit from taking a look at whether or not it truly makes sense. When we don’t examine these beliefs they tend to become self-fulfilling prophecies. Ordinarily, the expression “familiarity breeds contempt” refers to what often happens in long-standing relationships and marriages. Regrettably, over time too may relationships begin to see their joy wither. Yet, the question remains: is it actually familiarity that causes this disappointment?
We might consider whether it’s familiarity that’s the culprit or whether something else is provoking the contempt. At times, familiarity may in fact pave the way for greater intimacy and love. After all, when the relationship begins and we open to emotional intimacy, we set the stage for falling in love. If a soft kiss, an appreciative hug or the simple feeling of being cared for becomes familiar, then familiarity in fact evokes and sustains love. In loving relationships that embrace emotional support and respect, familiarity produces a wonderful life. What we become accustomed to should become the focus of our attention.
There is only one place where we find Jesus cannot do miracles, and that is his home town. Why? Because the people were over familiar with him – they saw him as the carpenter’s boy, not as the son of God.
One of the things that will outright stop the flow of the power of God in your life is being too familiar with the people God is using to minister life to you and equip you to minister.
Now I don’t believe there is anything wrong with being familiar with people who are pastors and evangelists. I love spending time with my people and all good pastors do too. The travelling speakers who fly in and fly out and don’t linger around people – I just ain’t interested in them at all.
Familiarity is not being familiar – familiarity is knowing someone so well that you lose your admiration and respect for them. You become presumptuous around them and stop respecting them. This familiarity is what made Michal barren, and it still makes Christians barren today.
No matter how great the gift from God is, the power on the person is always destroyed by familiarity. Jesus was the greatest healing minister who had ever preached in Nazareth, but their familiarity caused them to see only a few little miracles (Mark 6.5-6). They knew his mum and dad, they knew him as a child – their familiarity and lack of respect and honour lost them their miracle night.
Your family may suffer from familiarity – how can you be the great healer when you are a this-and-that. Wives, like Michal, can be unimpressed with their husbands at the exact moment everyone else is impressed with them. They will say “Well, I know what you are really like”, “I am not like your lackeys in the church/ office/ factory”, “if only people knew what you are really like”. I have seen ministers go through this. The wife is probably right, but their familiarity will cause them to be barren.
Close friends also suffer from familiarity – familiarity created Judas. Familiarity causes people to cross lines they should not cross! It makes people say things they should never say.
When Michal spoke against David, she became a critic of the king. David had just built a tabernacle but she wasn’t impressed. God said David was a man after his own heart, but she hated him. Can you imagine being annoyed when God is pleased? Familiarity will bring you there.
It takes discipline and care not to become familiar, and if you are a leader, it takes discipline and care not to let people become familiar. Remember – familiarity is being so familiar with someone it causes you to lose your respect. Remember – familiarity is what causes you to lose your access to the power of God that should be setting you free and equipping you to walk in your dreams.