The gap between the Christian worldview and others has never been wider. There’s a great divide in our country right now, not necessarily between people who look differently, but between people who think differently. How can we show love and concern for those who may hate us? How can we reach people and authentically love people who think differently than us, without compromising our message?
Jesus provided a great model on HOW to love people when He walked the earth. As I read through the gospels, I see the following pattern emerge: 1) Build the relationship; 2) Meet the need; 3) Address the sin
Jesus showed incredible grace and patience for those who appeared to have lost their way in this life. The convicted thief, the addicted prostitute, the serial adulterer, the fraudulent embezzler, and even the rehabilitated murderer all received more of Jesus’ time, attention, and compassion than nearly anyone else in New Testament accounts. At the same time, Jesus didn’t condone or even overlook their bad choices or sinful lifestyles. He offered them care, compassion, and grace. But He also offered them truth.
How can we follow the same example?
1. Build the Relationship. It sounds very cliché, but people do not care about what you know until they know you care. If we’re going to love people, particularly those who don’t share our religious, political, or social views, we have to establish a personal relationship with them. Rather than arguing over social media, engage an individual one-on-one.
Relationships are hard work and can get messy, but they are a necessary step in showing care and compassion.
Jesus showed compassion and care for individuals, regardless of their ethnicity, political views, gender, or religious persuasion. We see specific examples in the Bible of when He healed an opposing soldier’s daughter (Luke 7:1–10); touched and healed the man with an infectious disease (Matthew 8:3); saved a prostitute from abuse and ridicule (John 8:1–11); had dinner with a man who was a known thief (Luke 19:1–10); and had a deep conversation with a bi-racial woman as He was passing through hostile territory (John 4:1-26).
2. Meet the Need. If we are to have influence with individuals in our world, we have to look beyond the obvious and external appearances. Wealth, possessions, or attitudes can oftentimes conceal true needs. Needs don’t have to be financial or material; someone can be crying for attention or connection. Love isn’t a feeling, it’s an action. If we are to truly love people and accept them for who they are, we need to invest our time, our affection, and often our resources. Helping others in need can be exhausting and expensive, but it’s crucial if we’re going to show others the love of Jesus.
We won’t know the need, of course, until we establish the relationship first. Even though Jesus always knew their need, He made them ask for his help. I often wondered why that was. Obviously, the blind man needed his sight and the paraplegic needed to be able to walk again. What I’ve discovered, though, is that some individuals don’t want help. They don’t want to be healed. The more we try to meet a need that they don’t think they have, the more they will reject the help—and us.
Jesus asked what they wanted as confirmation that they were ready to receive help. I’ve learned this the hard way. I’ve tried to help individuals get a job, buy a car, or start a business, just to discover that I wanted this for them more than they wanted it for themselves. Until we really know their need, we can’t meet it. Resist the urge to assume you know what another individual needs, even if it’s a close friend or family member. You know what happens when we assume… But once we know the real need, make every effort to address it. We also know what is said about the road to hell and how it’s paved with good intentions.
To be continued. Check in next week to learn about Step 3.