loving people

Loving people. This may be the single hardest thing Jesus calls us to. He tells us to love our enemies and then shows us how everyday he walked the earth—right up until he died for his enemies.

 

The thing about people is they can be tough nuts to crack. They rarely act the way we would like them to and seem to think like we would like even less often! Of course there are those few we naturally identify with that make loving them easy. Usually because they are good at feeding our egos or affirming what we already hold to be true. But for the majority of people, loving them can be tough.

 

It’s too easy to fall into secret grudges and quiet dislike. It’s all too commonplace to find ourselves judging and holding against, all the while pretending to be friendly.

 

The thing about the Bible is that it doesn’t tell us to just “get along” or to avoid people who making loving them difficult.

Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt. Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.     Leviticus 19:17-18

 

Obviously, there is a call to not hate. That’s kind of a given. It’s why so many of us pretend to like those difficult people. We know we shouldn’t hate them—and we wouldn’t if they weren’t so annoying! Well, that’s the excuse we often make anyway. But we know we shouldn’t hate them so we hide it, keep it secret. We deny even to ourselves that hate is what’s going on.

 

As if that weren’t enough of a difficulty for us to work with it goes further. “Can I be frank…?” This is not the way any of us want to hear someone begin a conversation with us. It implies they are about to say something they don’t want to say and we don’t want to hear. But this is the call of loving people as well.

 

Be frank. Be up front. Be honest. Be direct. It’s not a call to constant criticism. It’s not a call to always venting over every little thing someone says or does that we don’t agree 100% with. But it is a call to not hold something against another person when they have done wrong. It is a call to honest relationships. To real community.

 

“…so you will not share in their guilt.” This implies they are guilty. They have done something wrong. They have treated someone wrongly, or have acted sinfully. They have been hateful or ungodly in some way. This isn’t about personalities not clicking or opinions that differ. This is about sin. And God says if your “neighbor” is sinning you have to be frank with him or her. You have to be direct. You have to talk it out. Or you share in the guilt.

 

Wow, that mindset should change a lot of the judging we are prone to! The church is notoriously skilled at standing off to the side and judging the sinners. We like to see, identify and sentence…from afar. And God says we are guilty too, if this is our approach.

 

And it’s not a call to talk about it in a hateful or judging or condescending way. It’s not a pronouncement of their guilt to their face. It’s a conversation, a “walking with”, an honest dialogue that is carried out in love. The way we would want someone to talk to us if we were the guilty one.

 

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

 

We are good at loving ourselves. We extended ourselves the benefit of the doubt, excusing behavior because of circumstances and obstacles. We trust ourselves to do it better next time again and again. We gloss over a multitude of mistakes we make with apparent ease. What would it be like to love others this same way? To love them like we love ourselves?

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10 thoughts on “loving people

  1. I’m not sure I get this. Are our “neighbors’ only fellow believers?? If not, and I think I know the answer to this, then what about a coworker who is not a believer and I hear or see firsthand a major sinful thing. Am I guilty for even being there (even if I don’t participate)…. if i don’t go to this person IN LOVE and talk about it?? Ouch!! Can I just walk away? Just thinking ……

    • These are some really great questions you are posing here. I am glad you are thinking. Your thinking is making me think too. I have some thoughts on what you are saying.

      The word “neighbor” in this verse of Leviticus literally in Hebrew means “brother” which would imply that we are talking about fellow believers. However, we know that Jesus expands this idea of neighbor in a major way (Luke 10:25-37) and he is directly referencing back to this verse about loving our neghbor. Neighbor, according to Jesus, can be anyone we encounter who is in need of being loved. This makes my first instinct for reacting to your questions be that yes, we should confront everyone (lovingly) when we see sin…BUT, as I think more I realize another important point. The context of this calling to be frank with our ‘neighbor’ is that otherwise we are inclined to hold a grudge or hate them for their action.

      So it’s not that we are being called to constantly go around declaring sin everywhere we see it, even among unbelievers. It’s actually, the more I consider these verses, not about setting them right, or making them change. It does use the word “rebuke” which implies offering correction and/or guidance. But it’s really about not becoming guilty myself. So it may be a conversation that says something like, “What you did was very offensive to me and has caused me to think things about you I don’t want to think. It has caused me to have animosity against you. I believe you were wrong, but please forgive me for reacting as I did.”

      Wow, that hurts to even think about having that conversation with someone! But I think it’s on the right track. The focus here is on the fact that we have seen someone sin and in order to not sin also (by hating or grudge-holding) we speak frankly. But I don’t think the focus is on the other person and their action as much as on my reaction and my heart towards them.

      i’m just thinking here, so you may find holes in my logic or problems with my interpretation here. But at this point, I’m thinking this is how we should understand it.

      What do you think? What does anyone think? Join in with your thoughts!

  2. This is a challenging message…How do you be “honest” or “Be frank. Be up front. Be honest. Be direct.” with people who really don’t listen? The “stiff-necked” full or pride person who is has the strong opinion and personality, and is not afraid to let you know their thoughts.

    I have lived within these Scriptures…
    Philipians 1:9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ,

    It it she ability to discern or “love wisely”…to guard your heart, for it is the well-spring of life. Yet when you truly love, you give your heart, you put it at risk..

    I also live within the Scripture…Ephesians 4:2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. and Colossians 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

    It is a tricky thing to love the difficult person. Many times to my discernment causes me to “not say anything” because it will just cause conflict and pain.

    I’m sure you have encountered people like this…Obviously, I have and do, and will continue to encounter them. It takes a ton of GRACE, LOVE, PATIENCE, UNDERSTANDING, COMPASSION, KINDNESS, GENTLENESS…and SELF-CONTROL…tough things to bear, but then fruit is not easy to produce and can only be produced by the POWER OF JESUS in me…(yes I also live in Hebrews 12: 1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.)

    Thoughts?

    And thanks for your faithfulness in Soul Grit!!!
    TJ<

    • TJ, very good thoughts here. Yes, I agree that it is very, very tricky to love the difficult person. They are everywhere!!! I am also learning that for others I am often the difficult person to love. We are all so different and unique and I think god loves that about us. But it makes it more difficult for us sometimes to love well.

      I like the verses you identified here, because to me they speak of a relational context and of discernment and loving the ones we are bearing up and living with and forgiving.

      I think what i’m recognizing as i think through your comments and Cheryl’s comments (see her comments above) is that the being frank thing is contextualized in my heart’s condition. the being frank and direct is to avoid falling into the sin of hating or grudge-holding. So yes, we don;t always confront everyone about everything. but we do need to ensure that we are guarding our own hearts against sin.

      I can also identify with your comment, “Many times to my discernment causes me to “not say anything” because it will just cause conflict and pain.” I hear you. I’m there. I don’t like confrontation, I like peace. And I hate to say anything that will cause others to hurt or conflict to arise. but I am learning to balance that with my own obligation to be in healthy relationship with those who want it. WHich sometimes means confront even though it will cause pain and conflict. I’m not very good at this, but I am learning. As you pointed out, discernment is the big key.

      Thanks for your thoughts here. Let me know if you disagree with what I’m saying or if I just lost you! Sometimes my thoughts are a bit scattered. Good dialogue though. And good verses I will ponder today. Thanks for sharing them.

  3. Just something here that confuses me a little. How do I do any of this without being guilty of judging others? Isn’t there some fine line here that I might be crossing? If I tell someone they are doing something wrong aren’t I judging them? Should I just focus on not judging them and try and keep myself in line and by doing so setting a good example to them which I hope they will follow? Should I not first take the plank out of my own eye?

    • Costas, this is a really great question. And more than anything I admire the mindset that thinks in terms of working out our own issues (getting out the plank) before moving to other people’s issues. Thanks for bringing this to the forefront.

      I would say this regarding your concern about judging others:

      When Jesus says “do not judge or you too will be judged” I think we need to understand the culture into which he was speaking. It should help us a bit. I once did some in depth study on this subject of judging and Jesus and the culture then and the culture now. I think I will dig up my old notes on that and do a post on it soon. Maybe tomorrow if I can find my notes tonight. Here’s the main idea though. Hopefully it will be helpful. More detail to follow soon…God willing!

      When Jesus, and the culture he lived in, speak of judging they think in terms of determining one’s heart. They are speaking in terms of assigning motive and therefore value to a persons actions. they are not speaking of fruit. Fruit, or the outcome of one’s actions, are more black and white. Some things are just wrong, according to Scripture. If I steal something from a store and am found out, you are not judging me to say that I acted wrongly. Society and the Bible both say this is wrong. So in terms of governments I am wrong (I have broken the law) and in terms of the Bible I am sinning. My stealing is wrong. No judgment there. It’s clearly been determined by those in authority to be wrong.

      Now, if you say to me because of my stealing, “you are a selfish jerk who only cares about yourself” then you have crossed over from denouncing my sin to judging me. Did I steal out of selfishness? Maybe. But that’s not your place to say because only God knows the heart. I may have stole because I was starving…or for a thousand other reasons. My motivation may have been justified or may not have been. You can respond to my fruit–to my actions, but it is not your place to determine my motives, for only God judges the heart. And more importantly it’s only between God and I. my actions, the fruit of my life affect others, so you can stand up and say that what i did was wrong. but my heart is for God to judge.

      In short, that is the difference between seeing my sin and saying that I have done wrong and judging. Judging involves assigning my heart motive or assigning me as a person value, or lack of value, because of my actions. I could say more, but I’ll wait.

      Does this make sense? Some sense at least? Do you agree/disagree? let me know. And thank yo for an honest question and genuine searching.

  4. Philipians 1:9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ…

    i really think this verse says it all. Gods greatest commandment is to love others (even the difficult) and thank goodness He equips us to do it wisely…not blindly. may we all learn to love the “difficult” wisely…responding to the tough situations with knowledge and wisdom that only comes from our Father. He will give us the discernment we need in every “situation”…thank goodness!!

    • ps i use to think because i am a christian i do not have the right to be offended…after all i am suppose to be dead. i thought i was to just let it go and move on. i agree…this reaction can sometimes cause bitterness, which turns into ugly ole sin. some things (not all) have to be addressed and like i said before (see post above) God called me to love wisely, not blindly.

    • kj, this is a really good piece of Scripture for what we are talking about here. Love and discernment. We so desparately need both of those when it comes to interacting with other people! ANd it’s a great reminder that God equips us. Thanks for sharing this.

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