Loving and Giving Until It Hurts
Carol is a single mother with a heart as big as the moon. She loves strays of all kinds: stray dogs, stray cats, stray iguanas (today she informed me there’s a local herpetological society that will contribute toward your care of a stray iguana). She also loves stray people. But early in life she thought she could help a stray person who was struggling. She was sure that with enough love she could bring out the good person she knew lived inside him. She loved him, and loved, him, and loved him. But no matter how much love she gave, she couldn’t compete with his addiction. He spent his money (and hers) on his habit. He neglected her. He neglected his job. He neglected his kids. Finally he left. Not to be deterred, she found another stray. Surely with enough love she would turn this person around. But the pattern repeated until he finally left too. Now and again she would surround herself with several stray people at a time, each one was in a dark place, and that too sent her life into a destructive spin.
So she asked me today, How does this work? We’re supposed to love people like Jesus loved people, but how do we do that without our good efforts deteriorating into something self destructive?
How Jesus Loved People
Jesus loved people who struggled with sin. He loved prostitutes, lepers, and corrupt tax collectors. He loved people on the fringes. He loved people no one else wanted to love. Jesus loved the unlovable, it’s undeniably true. But read the gospels and see, Jesus kept a core group of people, each of whom loved God with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his mind. Each of whom loved people. And each was wholly committed to Jesus himself. (Matthew 22:36-40)
Jesus surrounded himself with his disciples. Yes he loved and helped people who were stuck in a quagmire of sin, but those relationships were nearly always transient. And when they weren’t transient it was because the person, like Mary who washed Jesus’ feet with her hair, became a disciple. Those who transitioned from a transient relationship with Jesus to a more permanent relationship with Jesus became as one of his core group. They too became lovers of God, and people, and Jesus. (Luke 7:36-50)
Think about that. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Light of the world, he surrounded himself with people who loved God with all their heart, soul, and mind. As John the Baptist famously said, “I am not the Christ.” (John 1:20) And guess what, neither am I, and neither are you. You and I are far less than he is. The best way for you and I to choose our inner circle is to prayerfully and purposefully determine who our core group will be the same way Jesus determined his. Choose an inner circle who will influence you to love God and people. Choose a core group of people who are wholly committed to Jesus Christ.
That’s what Jesus did.
You can too–and it will change your life.
1) I recognize there are exceptions to this approach. What’s tricky though is that they are extremely rare. There really are a few people designed by God to live permanently among those on the fringe, Mother Theresa is one famous example. The trap for most of us though is to think we’re one of those rare few, to think we’re capable of living without a core group like the group of people Jesus surrounded himself with.
But the world is littered with the broken lives of those who didn’t recognize their own human limitations in this context. For nearly all of us the idea that we are another rare Mother Theresa-like person is a disastrous delusion.
2) Carol is a fictitious name to protect the privacy of the real “Carol.”
3) Relatively new and controversial research is shedding light on the incredible power of your peer group. Malcom Gladwell cites this research, spearheaded by Judith Harris, in his book David and Goliath. Harris asserts that one’s peer group is much more influential than their parents.
[Image via Grayson Akerly – Creative Commons]