Here’s the deal: People are crazy. We don’t always make sense. We change our minds all the time. We get offended, hurt, and wounded. We hurt others. We laugh when we shouldn’t. We are needy and selfish. We don’t always tell the truth. We exaggerate. We eat too many cookies.
People are also beautiful. We are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). People are the most unique, exquisite, detailed creation. Jesus loved people so much that He died for them. He is passionate about His people, and He commands us to love His people because people are worth fighting for.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)
So how do we love people like Jesus? I’ve been thinking about this a lot because I know I don’t always do a good job.
Jesus meets people where they’re at. Sometimes we think the best way to love people is to fix them. (Because obviously we have all the answers.) But that’s not what they need, and that’s not what Jesus does. In John 8, Jesus was speaking with a bunch of people. The Pharisees brought a woman to him who had been caught in adultery, and said she deserved to be stoned because she had broken the law. Do you know what Jesus did? He defended the woman against her accusers. Instead of condemning her or trying to fix her, he knelt down beside her and got on her level.
“Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger in the dirt. They kept at him, badgering him. He straightened up and said, ‘The sinless one among you, go first: throw the stone.” Bending down again, he wrote some more in the dirt. Hearing that, they walked away, one after another, beginning with the oldest. The woman was left alone. Jesus stood up and spoke to her. “Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?” “No one, Master.” “Neither do I,” said Jesus. “Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin.” (John 8:6-11)
Jesus could have yelled at this woman for being disobedient. He could have embarrassed her in front of the crowd. He could have given her a list of rules that she’d broken. Instead, Jesus defended her and reminded her that she is not condemned, and because of this, she is free to live righteously. He reminded her of her true identity.
Loving people like Jesus doesn’t mean we try to fix them. It means we empower them to walk in who Jesus says they are, and remind them of their Heavenly identity when they have forgotten. “From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh…If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:16-17)
Another thing that blows me away about Jesus is how patient He is with people in their journeys. Have you ever had that friend, co-worker, or family member who asks your advice 1803 times, and every time you give it, she does exactly the opposite of what you suggest? Or he comes to you following something that you specifically told him not to do, but now he wants your help? And you smile (because you’re a good friend and you love people well), but in your head you are thinking, “You are crazy!!”
Jesus doesn’t seem to get worked up as much as I do about people’s crazy moments. In Luke 5, Jesus is preaching by a lake and some fishermen are bringing their boats ashore after a long night. They are cleaning their nets and recovering from their workday. Jesus climbs into Simon’s boat and asks Simon to pull his boat out a little from the land. Jesus tells Simon to put his nets into the water for a catch. And Simon talks back to Jesus. Yes, talks back to him. (Can someone say #attitude?)
“Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! (Just in case you didn’t know, Jesus, we have been working really hard and are very tired.) But at your word I will let down the nets.” (Luke 5:5)
When I read this, I thought Simon SURELY deserved a slap on the hand or a quick reprimand for talking back to Jesus. I thought surely Jesus would tell him that he had three seconds to change his attitude and choose joy.
But Jesus says nothing. Instead, He fills their nets with the greatest catch of their lives. “And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking.” (Luke 5:6).
Jesus doesn’t let Simon’s momentary attitude problem stop Him from loving and abundantly blessing him. Jesus is patient with Simon in his journey, knowing he probably is tired and has been up all night. Jesus doesn’t get riled up at Simon’s momentary push back. Jesus knows the encounter with the Master will transform Simon’s life, and offers Simon grace in this journey. And He’s right! Later in the story, Simon drops everything, even after getting the greatest catch of his life, and follows Jesus. Jesus was patient with Simon in his journey to the miracle.
When we love people like Jesus, we offer them grace on the journey to their encounter with Jesus, believing that one encounter with Jesus will change their lives.
Jesus didn’t promise it would be easy.
Colossians 3:12-14 says, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, BEARING WITH one another, and if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other, as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. And above all these, put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.”
To bear with means to be patient or tolerant with, to endure. Jesus calls us to BEAR WITH one another. To support each other. And he anticipates we will need a lot of forgiveness along the way.
When we look around us, in the movies, Hollywood, on television, it’s easy to believe that love should be easy. Love should be full of flowers and chocolate and romance and beautiful things and perfection. But this is not true!
Loving people requires something of us. Jesus demonstrated the greatest love of all when He laid down His life to make a way for us to have a relationship with God. Love cost Him His life! Often times, loving people like Jesus often means laying down our lives for them.
As we try to love people like Jesus, we can always remember that the person whose name is LOVE lives inside of us. Jesus lives in us and His Holy Spirit will teach us on our journeys of loving the people in front of us. We are not alone!
Love transforms people! This season, as we reflect and anticipate the celebration of the greatest Love of all, let’s be people who refuse to passively love the person in front of us! Let’s dive all in, with Heaven as our standard, and Jesus as our teacher.
Jesus wants to use us to bring His love to the world. If we can be faithful to love the person in front of us with Heaven’s eyes, remembering that this person was created in the image of God and was created for a divine purpose, we will see transformation and the Kingdom come all around us.