Last week Billy Graham died, so we took a little detour from our weekly posts of chapters from the new book Love Like Jesus. In case you’re interested, the last chapter posted from the Love Like Jesus book was Chapter 7: Grace and Truth. Today’s post is taken from Chapter 8. Love Like Jesus is due to be published in January of 2020. I hope you enjoy it and find it helpful.
The Angry Crowd
I was sitting in class with about thirty-five other people on a Friday afternoon at the National Fire Academy in Maryland near Washington D.C. Before our instructor dismissed us, he warned us to avoid downtown D.C. that weekend because there was going to be a large pro-life demonstration happening there.
What happened next nearly knocked me off my chair. Just as soon as the words “pro-life” passed his lips, the class erupted with loud jeers and boos from almost everyone in the room. The contempt for anyone with a pro-life viewpoint was palpable.
Like you, I think of myself as independent of and unconstrained by the thinking of the people around me. But during the jeers and boos, I looked over at my friend sitting next to me and hoped to God he didn’t say anything that would tip the crowd concerning my pro-life sentiments. I feared the intense disapproval of my classmates. I was afraid I would be shunned. My normally solid convictions about my pro-life beliefs wavered.
“Was there some way I could compromise those beliefs so I could avoid being ostracized by my classmates?” I thought to myself.
Criticism, Pushback, And Misunderstanding
One time when Jesus was teaching and healing in Galilee, he was intentionally staying away from Judea. He stayed away because of the threat from the Pharisees. Because he had been healing people on the Sabbath, and because he declared himself to be God’s own Son, the Pharisees were offended. They used these reasons to justify their plot to murder Jesus (Although envy and a desire to preserve their own power base were the true roots of their motivation.) During Jesus’ time on earth, Galilee and Judea were under separate jurisdictions, so remaining in Galilee was a means for Jesus to stay out of harm’s way.1
But then the time came for the Feast of Booths, a feast that was celebrated for eight days in Jerusalem, which was in the jurisdiction of Judea where Jesus’ enemies resided. Jewish families and even entire Jewish neighborhoods from all over would travel together to Jerusalem for this feast. So Jesus’ (half) brothers are going and, as brothers sometimes do, they goad him. In a provocative way, they tell Jesus what he should do. They criticize him for remaining in the relatively obscure community of Galilee. And they give him the marketing wisdom of the day: Go to a major population center so you can promote yourself. Verse five confirms their provocative tone. “For not even his brothers believed in him.” (John 7:5)
Jesus’ biological half-brothers didn’t get him. Jesus was operating in the Spirit while his brothers were just doing whatever the rest of the Jewish community was doing.
Another time we read that Jesus’ family tried to physically remove him from the press of a great crowd he was ministering to. At that time his family actually said: “He is out of his mind.” (Mark 3:20-21)
Later in that same chapter, they tell Jesus that his mother and brothers want to see him. Jesus responded, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking around at those who were with him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers.” (see Mark 3:31-35)
Something I discovered is when you start to live a life of loving like Jesus there will be criticism, pushback, and misunderstanding, sometimes from people you would never expect, including family and religious people. For that reason alone you’ll need strength from God, and you’ll need strength from the people around you.
What Science Has Identified As One Of The Most Powerful Forces On Earth
One of the most powerful forces on earth is something called social norming. It works like this: Each one of us believes with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind that “I am my own man,” or, “I am my own woman.” Each of us likes to think: “While others may be susceptible to the influence of those they surround themselves with, I think for myself.”
But over and over again science says otherwise. You can hear it in a podcast from the experts at Freakonomics.2 You can read about it from Arizona State University professor Dr. Robert Cialdini.3 You can learn about it in research cited by Malcolm Gladwell.4 The influence of those we surround ourselves with is consistently underestimated. But it turns out it’s one of the most powerful forces there is when it comes to what determines our thinking and behavior.
How Jesus Loved People: Jesus’ Two Families
So when Jesus looks around at those who were with him and says, “Here are my mother and my brothers,” what does he mean?
When we read the gospels, we see that although Jesus befriended many sinners, he surrounded himself with 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 them loved people as themselves. And each of them was wholly committed to Jesus himself. These lovers of God and people became Jesus’ family. They were the ones he lived with, day in and day out, for three years.
How To Love Like Jesus: Your Two Families
Ponder this for a moment: 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. Recognizing the obvious, that you and I are far less than he is:
For you and for me to love like Jesus, we need to choose our inner circle like Jesus.
To determine who he would choose, Jesus “went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles.” (Luke 6:12-13)
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 who are wholly committed to Jesus Christ.
Tim Ferriss, the author of the book Tools of Titans, was asked, “If you could have a billboard in a location with the greatest possible visibility, what would you put on that billboard?” And his answer was:
“You are the average of the five people you most associate with.”5
For good or for bad, one of the most powerful forces on earth is the force of social norming. You can use it for good.
If you want to love like Jesus, find people who love like Jesus and surround yourself with them. Find people who love God and Jesus with everything they have. You’ll usually find them doing something for God’s kingdom. Often you’ll find them in a church. Unfortunately, there are plenty of churches filled with people just going through the motions — lukewarm churches. And there are even churches filled with people worshipping something other than God. (I recently saw a video of a sermon encouraging people to come to church so they could make more money.) But there are also churches with Christ followers who love God with all their heart, and with all their soul, and with all their mind. Find those people. Look first in places where people are doing something for God’s kingdom. Find out what they’re doing and go do it with them. Get to know them. Ask around. Research reviews of ministries and churches on the internet. Volunteer with different ministries for a few hours per month. Try different churches. Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t fear trial and error. Who you surround yourself with will be one of the most important decisions of your entire life. Jesus himself prayed all night about this decision.
Don’t stop until you find the people who love God and who love people like Jesus.
Do whatever you have to do to find these people and make them your core group.
That’s what Jesus did.
You do it too.
Further study on the amazing power of social norming will be rewarded. I recommend the Freakonomics podcast, Riding the Herd Mentality, from 6/21/2012, Robert Cialdini’s excellent book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, and Malcolm Gladwell’s article, Do Parents Matter?, 8/17/1998.
- Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, InterVarsity Press, 1993
- Stephen Dubner, Riding the Herd Mentality, Freakonomics Podcast, 6/21/2012
- Robert B. Cialdini Ph.D., Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Harper Business, 12/26/2006
- Malcolm Gladwell, Do Parents Matter?, 8/17/1998
- Melia Robinson, Tim Ferriss: ‘You are the average of the five people you most associate with’, Business Insider, 1/11/2017
Albert Mohler, Rethinking Secularization: A Conversation with Peter Berger, albertmohler.com, 10/11/2010
Anthony Lising, School of Education, Stanford University, The Influence of Friendship Groups on Intellectual Self-Confidence and Educational Aspirations in College
Image of Friends by Alexms22 via Wikimedia Commons.
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What a post! Timely and much needed. Especially taking to heart: “Who you surround yourself with will be one of the most important decisions of your entire life. Jesus himself prayed all night about this decision.” Thank you. Keep writing!
This is truly fascinating Just. I am definately going to check out some of the resources you recommended on social norming.