Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
How Jesus Loved People
Jesus loved people by commending them for what they had going for them. Here on the mountainside He commends those who hunger for righteousness, and those who are merciful, and those pure in heart, and those who strive to make peace, and those wrongly persecuted because of their righteousness. Throughout the gospels we see Jesus commending and adding value to people. He commended Nathanael’s honesty when he said, “here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” He commended the promiscuous woman at the well when he said, “What you have just said is quite true.” He commended the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years when he said, “your faith has healed you.” (John 1:47, John 4:18, Matthew 9:22)
How to Love Like Jesus
I just read about a left-wing, lesbian, college professor who hated Christianity. No, hate is too mild a word, she reviled Christianity. In her own words she said of Christ and Christians: “Stupid. Pointless. Menacing. That’s what I thought of Christians and their god Jesus, who in paintings looked as powerful as a Breck Shampoo commercial model.”
In 1997 she wrote an article for her local newspaper attacking Promise Keepers. Perhaps not surprisingly she received a great deal of mail as a result of that article. Many responses were from Christians who attacked her views, and many were also rejoinders applauding her position. But one response didn’t fit into either category. A pastor sent a letter she described as kind and inquiring. She threw it out. Then later she fished it out of her recycle bin. She stared at it for a week before she decided to accept his invitation to dinner.
Dinner led to friendship with the pastor and his wife. Friendship led to her reading the bible. Then she read multiple translations of the bible. After two years, she came to the place where she was painfully conflicted. She believed. She believed in the gospels and what they said and in Christ. But she struggled mightily with the cost of conversion. Her circle of friends wouldn’t receive the news well if she gave herself to Christ. But she did anyway.
Today she’s married to a pastor. (The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield)
So often my own tendency is to see what I think are flaws in people. Then I try to “help” by pointing out those flaws, so they can be fixed, so the person can be made more perfect, and that’s important, because, I reason, I love that person and I want to see them “improve.”
Well, let me assure you: I’ve traveled down that road thousands of times, and I can say, nine times out of ten “improving” people is a losing proposition.
One of the reasons so many were (and are) attracted to Christ was because He gave value to them. People were attracted to Jesus because He would find some positive quality in a person, then He would latch onto it. Do you remember what Nathanael said when he was first told about Jesus? “Nazareth!” Nathanael said, “Can anything good come from there?” Yet Jesus responded by commending him on his honesty. (John 1:43-50)
If you really love somebody, and for that reason want to see them come to Christ, or grow as a Christian, find those things about them you admire, and focus your communication there.
Seeing what’s good in people is something you can practice. It’s a skill you can develop. It’s a habit you can form.
Live your life loving people by commending them, by giving value to them, by finding some positive quality and latching onto it.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue… –Proverbs 18:21
[Image via: Darwin Bell – Creative Commons]
[HT: Champagne Butterfield, Rosaria “My Train Wreck Conversion.” Christianity Today Jan/Feb 2013: 111-112]