Today’s post is from my new book Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus).
Last Saturday we posted Chapter 6: How Jesus Loved Judas To The Very End.
Love Like Jesus is due to be published later this year. If you’re interested in serving as a beta reader, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chapter 7 — Love Like Jesus: Grace And Truth
The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.”
How Jesus Loved People:
(Read John 4:7-45)
Jesus showed grace. In his conversation with the woman at the well, he started by building a foundation of love and grace. Throughout the story, he continues laying this foundation by revealing himself to her through conversation about the living water and the Messiah.
Then he shared truth. After, and only after, Jesus builds this foundation of love and grace, do we see Jesus begin to share truth. And even then, we see him sandwich the first dose of truth between two gracious statements. When she tells Jesus, “I have no husband.” Jesus, rather than railing on her for her past sins of promiscuity, says, “You are right in saying you have no husband.” He then shares his knowledge of her promiscuity, followed by, “What you have said is true.”
He goes on to share with her the truth about Samaritan worship, and the kind of worshippers God seeks, those who worship in Spirit and truth. And he reveals the truth about his identity. Ultimately Jesus shows love to this woman by declaring himself to her. Speaking of Messiah, Jesus says,
“I who speak to you am he.”
Confusing Pride With Principle
A twenty-something I know shared a conversation he had with a good lawyer. Right about now some of you are saying to yourselves, the word good and the word lawyer don’t belong in the same sentence. But I know this man personally, and although good lawyers might be rare, this attorney is one of them. He’s a skilled lawyer, and beyond that, he’s a good person. He has a heart for the underdog, and he strives to do his best for every client. This lawyer made a statement to my friend that surprised me, he said,
“The best lawyers are not those who love to win an argument.”
When I heard that, I thought to myself, “I know this can’t be true — because I’ve seen all the lawyer TV shows: “The Good Wife”, “Better Call Saul”, “Boston Legal”, “Law and Order” . . . Those lawyers always win the argument. And they seem to relish the courtroom confrontation.
But the good lawyer says the best don’t take pleasure in winning the debate. He says the best are outcome oriented. He says the best don’t look for ways to win the argument, they look for ways to reach the best possible result. At the end of the discussion he made this statement:
“Never confuse pride with principle.”
I had to think about that. How many times did I believe I was standing on principle, when in reality, what I was after was victory and conquest, so I could feed my pride. And this was nearly always at the expense of outcome, and very often at the expense of the relationship.
Contrast that with what we see in our story, which is how unmistakable Jesus’ love is. It’s unmistakable to the reader, and most importantly, it’s unmistakable to the Samaritan woman at the well. And look at the result. She left that conversation to gather up and bring the townspeople to Jesus, and she did it because she knew Jesus loved her. Yes, the truth was shared, but only in the context of Jesus’ love.
The Lesbian College Professor Who Hated Christianity
Rosaria Butterfield was a college professor, and a lesbian, who hated Christianity. Actually, hate is too mild, she reviled Christianity. Here’s how she felt about it, in her own words: “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 the Christian group 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 from people who applauded 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 she believed 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 Jesus. But she did anyway.
Today she’s married to a pastor.1
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”.
Let me assure you: I’ve traveled down that road thousands of times, and I can say that “improving” people is a losing proposition. The pastor who led Rosaria Butterfield to Jesus didn’t approach her that way. The good lawyer doesn’t approach people that way. Jesus didn’t approach people that way.
How To Love Like Jesus
So here’s how you and I can love people like Jesus. When you’re sharing truth, it’s essential your love for the person you’re talking with be unmistakable. Unmistakable to you, to any observers, and most importantly to the person you’re sharing with. When you’re sharing truth, the person you’re talking with has to know you love them. When you’re sharing truth, you have to do so with a heart filled with Christ’s love.
Just as soon as your inner prosecuting attorney begins to rise up, the result you’re looking for goes out the window.
Of course, Jesus was a master at sharing truth in love. In the gospels we see him share this way over and over.
But you and I have to recognize that while Jesus was a master at this, you and I may not be. (see John 1:20) As for me, I know I am definitely not a master at sharing truth in love.
Keeping all of this in mind, if you’re tempted to share truth with someone, and you begin to feel God’s love leaving your heart, you’re better off not sharing at all.
If you begin to feel God’s love leaving your heart, just keep your mouth closed.
If you begin to feel God’s love leaving your heart, consider walking away.
Because if you choose to share without love, it’s likely you’ll only cause that person to become further entrenched in their current position.
But if you share in unmistakable love, you give the Holy Spirit the best possible chance to reach that person.
So build a foundation of grace and love, first. And share truth, only when your love for the person you’re sharing with is unmistakable.
That’s how Jesus loved people.
That’s how you can love like Jesus.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
1 Corinthians 13:1
- Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey into Christian Faith, Crown & Covenant, 2012
Image via waterdotorg – Creative Commons