Jesus and the Control Freak (From chapter 4 of the book Love Like Jesus)

God Running is a place for anyone who wants to (or even anyone who wants to want to) love Jesus more deeply, follow Jesus more closely, and love people the way Jesus wants us to.

Yesterday (at the time of this writing) I was teaching a Bible study for a new friend, and I shared a few things from this chapter, chapter 4, from the book Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus). I’m not exactly sure why but I feel led to post chapter 4 today in its entirety. Maybe it’s here for someone in particular.

Hard Questions

Michael is thirty-four years old, married, with no kids. He’s one of my closest friends, and he’s also someone who’s always asking these great questions about the Bible: provocative questions, hard questions, but great questions. And it’s caused me to look at the Bible differently. I read and hear so much about how the Bible is restrictive. But this person with the questions has me thinking about the freedom God has given us. Freedom to make our own choices. Have you ever considered how God arranged things in the Garden of Eden? Adam and Eve had the thinnest Bible in history. There was only one rule: Don’t eat from that one tree.

And have you ever considered what’s not illegal in the Old Testament? Polygamy, for instance, was not illegal. And prostitution was decriminalized, if you will. I’m not saying either of those is good, I’m just saying neither of those was a felony in the civil code given to Israel in the Old Testament. People were free to engage in those activities without significant legal repercussions, though the spiritual ramifications and life consequences were still there (see Proverbs
23:27 and 29:3).

The point is, God is radical when it comes to our freedom. He wants us to have the freedom to do what we want, even when it’s wrong. God’s perspective seems to be that demanding someone do something, or guilting them, or coercing them, is not an act of love. That realization really made me look at my own ideas about what God wants me to do concerning the behavior of others. Because sometimes I want other people to do what I want them to do, and I can get frustrated when they don’t.

Maybe you’ve been there. Maybe you are there. Maybe you want to spend money a certain way but your wife wants to do it her way. Or maybe you want to drive a certain way but someone in the car wants to go another way. Or maybe you want more time to recreate with the guys, but she has other ideas. Or maybe it’s just you and your wife trying to decide what to do for dinner. Whatever it is, our perspective changes when we see the enormous respect Jesus demonstrated for
the free will of others.

How Jesus Loved People: He Asked

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked the blind man sitting by the road near Jericho. (Luke 18:38–41)

“Do you want to be healed?” Jesus asked the invalid at the pool of Bethesda. (John 5:6)

“Shall I come to heal him?” Jesus asked the centurion with the paralyzed servant. (Matthew 8:7 NIV)

“Will you give me a drink?” Jesus asked the Samaritan woman at the well. (John 4:7 NIV)

He asked. He asked people what it was that they wanted, or even if they wanted. He left the choice up to them.

Jesus Let People Choose

The people of the Gerasenes were afraid of Jesus and they “asked him to depart from them.” So Jesus got into a boat and left. (Luke 8:34–37)

When the people of Samaria asked Jesus to stay with them, he interrupted his itinerary and stayed with them for two days. (John 4:39–41)

Ever notice that Jesus never went out looking for individual Pharisees to engage? Nicodemus had to come to Jesus. (John 3:1–21)

And then there’s the guy driving demons out in Jesus’ name: “Master,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.”

“Do not stop him,” Jesus said. (Luke 9:50)

And there’s the synagogue official who told the people not to come on the Sabbath to be healed.

But Jesus said, No! Let them come! (Luke 13:14–17)

Even his own disciples tried to constrain the will of certain people. They refused to let the little children come to Jesus. And when Jesus saw this, he was indignant. No! He said, Let them come! (Mark 10:14)

Finally, there’s Judas objecting to Mary pouring her perfume out onto Jesus’ feet. How did Jesus respond? He said, Leave her alone! (John 12:3–7)

Even when it broke cultural convention, Jesus gave people the freedom to do what they wanted to do.

Even Hostile People Were Given the Freedom to Choose

When the prodigal son demanded his inheritance, his tone was more bitter and cold toward his father than most people realize. In that culture, at that time, when a son demanded his inheritance in that way, what he was saying to his father was, “I wish you were dead. Your being alive, your very existence, is getting in the way of my inheritance.” But what does the father, who represents God in the parable, what does he do? Amazingly, he lets the prodigal do what he wishes. (Luke 15:11–32)

How to Love Like Jesus

There are exceptions, of course. With a stern countenance, Jesus imposed his will on the demons he cast out of people. (Luke 4:35) And when Peter cut off an ear with his sword, Jesus said, “No more of this!” (Luke 22:51) But, the general pattern we see from Jesus is to allow people to do as they wish. Even when Judas came to betray him, Jesus didn’t try to talk him out of it. He simply said, “Friend, do what you came to do.” (Matthew 26:50)

It’s puzzling to me, the way Jesus is so enthralled with the idea of free will. I’m the kind of person who likes to arrange things so they can’t miss. I would have put a fence around the forbidden tree in the garden. I would have taken Samson on a retreat until he cooled off on Delilah. I would have made sure Bathsheba’s bathtub wasn’t in view of David’s palace.

But God doesn’t do things that way. He set things up exactly the opposite. God always ensures choice. He arranged the universe so we have freedom. He’s completely committed to this idea of free will.

So for me, and for you, to love like Jesus, we need to rethink our expectations of others. Love requires a choice. When we demand, coerce, or guilt someone into doing something, we don’t love them the way Jesus loved.

Jesus demonstrated a radical respect for the freedom of others to choose to do what they want to do.

The people I observe loving like Jesus also show that same radical respect for people’s freedom.

That’s how Jesus loved people.

That’s how you can love like Jesus.

After he finished a parable or a teaching Jesus would often say, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Luke 8:8) In other words, Whoever hears hears, and whoever doesn’t want to hear doesn’t hear.

The choice is yours.

Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus) available on Amazon!

Love Like Jesus begins with the story of how after a life of regular church attendance and Bible study, Bennett was challenged by a pastor to study Jesus. That led to an obsessive seven year deep dive. After pouring over Jesus’ every interaction with another human being, he realized he was doing a much better job of studying Jesus’ words than he was following Jesus’ words and example. The honest and fearless revelations of Bennett’s own moral failures affirm he wrote this book for himself as much as for others.

Love Like Jesus examines a variety of stories, examples, and research, including:

  • Specific examples of how Jesus communicated God’s love to others.
  • How Jesus demonstrated all five of Gary Chapman’s love languages (and how you can too).
  • The story of how Billy Graham extended Christ’s extraordinary love and grace toward a man who misrepresented Jesus to millions.
  • How to respond to critics the way Jesus did.
  • How to love unlovable people the way Jesus did.
  • How to survive a life of loving like Jesus (or how not to become a Christian doormat).
  • How Jesus didn’t love everyone the same (and why you shouldn’t either).
  • How Jesus guarded his heart by taking care of himself–he even napped–and why you should do the same.
  • How Jesus loved his betrayer Judas, even to the very end.

With genuine unfiltered honesty, Love Like Jesus, shows you how to live a life according to God’s definition of success: A life of loving God well, and loving the people around you well too.

A life of loving like Jesus.

(Kindlehardcover, and paperback now available Amazon.)

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