Luke 2:7 — She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them
…she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
How Jesus loved people:
In the last post about how Jesus loved people we talked about how He just showed up. Jesus, who was God, the Creator of all things, the One who lived with the Father, Jesus, The Christ, He became one of us. And we talked about how you and I can have a tendency to want to show love to the most popular, or the powerful, or the rich, or the most well known among us. But where we really have power to make an impact is with those who are just the opposite. Those who you know would count it as a blessing if you showed up. If you just gave them a few minutes of your time. If you initiated a relationship. Jesus did that for you and for me. You and I can do the same.
In this post I want to take a look at how Jesus came. Just exactly how He did show up. What stands out the most to me about how He showed up is his humility. The Son of God wasn’t born into the household of a king, but into the household of a young carpenter. Jesus’ mother wasn’t a queen, or a wealthy matriarch. She was a teenage girl. Jesus was born into humble circumstances. Jesus approached us with humility.
How you can too:
You and I can do the same. When we approach someone, like Jesus, we can and should do so in humility. I have to confess that this is an area of weakness for me. I need to hear this message as much or more than anyone. For instance, my wife, Kathy, and I were reminiscing about our dating relationship the other day and it went something like this:
Me: “Remember when we both worked at the old folks home and you looked forward to going to work, because you’d get to see that cute guy who you liked, at shift change?” (that ‘cute’ guy was me)”
Kathy: “I didn’t look forward to going to work, because that guy was arrogant.”
It was a short conversation.
Contrast my own behavior from my early twenties with that of Jeremy Lin. Lately, the New York Knicks point guard seems to be everywhere in the media. He’s only twenty-three years old, and has been in the public eye on a national scale for only a few weeks, but he’s been very well received, in large part, because of his humble approach. Statistically, no one in the history of the National Basketball Association has done what Jeremy Lin has done in his first five starts, yet he almost always credits God and his teammates with Knicks’ wins, and he’s reluctant to talk about himself. Jeremy Lin is a recent example of how a Christian can influence others for Christ through humility. Humility is attractive to people. Arrogance is obnoxious — just ask Kathy.
When you approach someone, when you initiate a relationship with someone, when you interact with friends and family, do so with humility. No matter how much reputation you might think you’re leaving on the table by not talking yourself up, you’re still light years behind the humility Jesus displayed when He left His place in heaven, to become one of us. He met us on our own level.
He approached people in humility.
You can too.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
How Jesus loved people
Jesus showed up. Jesus, The Christ, blessed us with His presence. Jesus, the One who was the Word, and was God. The One who was with God in the beginning. The One through whom all things were made. He became the Light of all mankind. (John 1:1-5)
In fact, no one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God. (John 1:18) He became flesh and made his dwelling among us. (John 1:14)
Jesus, who was God, the Creator of all things, the One who lived with the Father, Jesus, The Christ, He became one of us.
How you can too
That’s what Jesus did. He lowered Himself. Even though we’re but dust and ashes, Jesus came to us. He showed up. He blessed us by initiating a relationship with you, with me, with all of humankind.
You have the opportunity to do the same. You might have a desire to bless the big man on campus with your presence. Or you might have a desire to bless the most popular people with your friendship. You might want to get to know the most powerful, or the richest, or the most famous people.
But where you really have power to make an impact, is with those people who would be blown away by your company. You know who they are. That shy person. That depressed person. The kid who wears funny looking clothes. The unpopular kid. I’m talking about Raj Koothrappali from the Big Bang Theory here. Or the the guy who’s struggling financially. Or the wallflower. That person who you know will light up when you approach them.
I’m not talking about doing anything special, I’m just talking about having a conversation, showing them a little love, taking two minutes of your time and talking to them. Bless them with your presence.
Just show up.
Like Jesus did.
Read Genesis 21:22-34
Abimelek the king of Gerar and his top general Phicol approach Abraham and say to him, We recognize that God is with you in everything you do. So swear to me here before God that you won’t deal falsely with me or my children or my descendants.
It’s no wonder that Abimelek is asking Abraham to swear that he wont’ deal falsely with him. A few years ago Abraham told this same Abimelek that Sarah was his sister. So Abimelek took Sarah into his harem. But God revealed to Abimelek the truth that Sarah is Abraham’s wife. Thus Abimelek narrowly averted sinning against the Lord which, the Lord informed him, would have cost him his life. (See previous post about Abraham and Abimelek)
Abimelek continued, I have treated you well all this time that you’ve resided here in my kingdom as a foreigner. Show to me and my country the same kindness I’ve shown you.
And Abraham responded, “I swear it.”
Then Abraham brings up a sore subject, a delicate matter, a touchy issue with Abimelek. He complains to Abimelek about a well of water that Abimelek’s servants had seized.
Abimelek responds, This is the first I’ve heard of it. You’ve never said anything to me about this before and I don’t know who might have done it.
So Abraham, to demonstrate his commitment to the treaty and to demonstrate his good will toward Abimelek, brings to Abimelek sheep and cattle. So the treaty is solidified. The deal is sealed. It’s done, these two powerful men have entered into the treaty with one another. Then Abraham does something unexpected.
Abraham’s Wisdom and Grace
He sets apart seven lambs from the flock and gives them to Abimelek.
What’s with these? Abimelek asks.
And Abraham replies, These seven lambs are a witness that I dug the well that your servants seized.
Now if Abraham dug the well it was his. So why, after he already gave Abimelek flocks of sheep and cattle, did Abraham give him seven lambs as “a witness” that Abraham dug the well?
Yesterday I participated in a class that teaches you how to communicate with people on the street in a way that encourages cooperation and avoids the need for physical force. I heard a story about a new police officer who, on his first day on the job, caught someone speeding. He made a traffic stop that went something like this:
“License and registration please.”
“Listen, I know my rights. I don’t have to give you my license and registration.”
“Sir I need you to step out of the car.”
“Listen you !@#$ %^&*^$!, I’m not doin it! As a tax payer I’m your boss — I pay your !@#$%^&* salary!”
This new cop couldn’t believe it. He checked his uniform, it looked good. He checked his boots, they were shiny. He checked his police cruiser, it looked good, the light bar was on. He checked his badge, it was on right side up.
Why isn’t this guy complying?
Then this brand new cop said, “Sir, step out of the car. I won’t ask you again!”
Do you see what happened here? The new cop and the driver of the car are both backed into a corner. Because of the cop’s statement that “I won’t ask you again!” this situation is destined to go sideways. Not surprisingly, the driver of the car didn’t comply. The next thing that happened was that the new cop pulled him through the window, arrested him, and took him down town to HQ. The driver of the vehicle wasn’t given a graceful way out. And as a result things turned ugly.
By the way the new cop’s boss, the Police Chief, called him into his office the next day for what the new cop thought was going to be an atta-boy. Well it didn’t turn out quite the way he expected. He was, to put it gently, directed to find a way to verbally persuade subjects to cooperate.
Wisdom For You And For Me
But what about Abraham? Here he is in this situation where he dug a well, a large investment in that area at that time. His men may have dug who knows how many dry wells before finding this one. And they didn’t have backhoes or drilling rigs in those days. So it’s a huge deal for someone to take over a well as Abimelek’s servants did. So what does Abraham do?
Abraham, the one who took his army of 318 men and rescued Lot from the armies of four kings, Abraham goes after the servants of Abimelek and takes them out, right? Abimelek’s servants seized the well so Abraham mustered his servants and seized it right back, correct?
Abraham didn’t fight with Abimelek’s servants. Abraham decided to take a different approach.
You see, I think that Abraham may have recognized that Abimelek was in a tight spot.
It may have been that his servants were telling him, No way, Abraham didn’t dig that well, we did! He’s lying!
So if Abimelek gives the well back to Abraham, Abimelek’s servants might react, You believe that foreigner over us? You, our leader and master, have pulled the rug out from under us! You’re not backing us up!
So instead of fighting Abimelek or insisting on Abimelek giving back control of the well, Abraham provides a graceful way out. He gives Abimelek seven lambs so Abimelek can tell his servants that the well has been purchased. Abraham gets his well back. Abimelek’s servants save face. Abimelek avoids contention within his ranks. And all’s well.
“But that’s not fair!” You might be saying.
“Where’s the justice?” You might be thinking.
“He’s letting Abimelek’s servants off the hook!” You might be protesting.
You know what I’ve learned? Every wise person I know, finds some means of providing a graceful way out for those with whom they have an issue.
And you know what else? It’s not our job to meet out justice anyway. It’s our job to love God and to love people. It’s God’s job to meet out justice.
Didn’t Jesus tell us “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. And If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.” (Matthew 5:39-41)
If you’re a Christian, and you’re not a cop, then it’s not your job to come down on people.
Give people you’re in disagreement with a graceful way out. You’ll be happier, people will be more cooperative toward you, and you’ll have healthier relationships.
Abraham was about relationships.
How To Be Happy
The most comprehensive longitudinal study in history is a research project called the Grant Study. In the Grant Study, 268 Harvard graduates (including John F. Kennedy by the way. His file is sealed until 2040) have received regular medical exams, taken psychological tests, returned questionnaires, and sat for interviews for the last 72 years or until they died. The files holding the data are as thick as unabridged dictionaries.
The man who’s been thoroughly analyzing these files for the last 44 years is Dr. George Valliant. Not long ago he was asked, “What have you learned from the Grant Study men?”
Vaillant’s response: “That the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.” ( What makes us happy? The Atlantic, June 2009 )
The scriptures confirm that statement.
The Bible is about relationships.
Jesus told us that all the law and all the prophets are summed up in these two statements: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” And “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
The Lord’s whole thing boils down to that. It’s about relationships with people. It’s about your relationship with the person of God and your relationships with other people.
Nothing else matters.
“Love God and do what you will.”
At that time Abimelek and Phicol the commander of his forces said to Abraham, “God is with you in everything you do. Now swear to me here before God that you will not deal falsely with me or my children or my descendants. Show to me and the country where you now reside as a foreigner the same kindness I have shown to you.”
Abraham said, “I swear it.”
Then Abraham complained to Abimelek about a well of water that Abimelek’s servants had seized. But Abimelek said, “I don’t know who has done this. You did not tell me, and I heard about it only today.”
So Abraham brought sheep and cattle and gave them to Abimelek, and the two men made a treaty. Abraham set apart seven ewe lambs from the flock, and Abimelek asked Abraham, “What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs you have set apart by themselves?”
He replied, “Accept these seven lambs from my hand as a witness that I dug this well.”
So that place was called Beersheba, because the two men swore an oath there.
After the treaty had been made at Beersheba, Abimelek and Phicol the commander of his forces returned to the land of the Philistines. Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the LORD, the Eternal God. And Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines for a long time.
Image via klaasjan – Creative Commons
I just read a facinating article about the power of human touch. Patients touched by their doctor perceived their visits to have lasted twice as long as patients who weren’t touched. Students who were touched by their teachers were twice as likely to volunteer in class. The human touch can ease depression. The human touch can improve relationships
In a Cal Berkley study touches among teammates on NBA teams were measured. Among all NBA teams who do you suppose touches the most? The top two are the Boston Celtics and the L.A. Lakers — the last two NBA champions.
For the full story see the New York Times .
Touching, appropriately of course, is one of the most effective ways of communicating God’s love to others. People who are lonely and/or depressed have shared with me that, at times, they would give their right arm just to feel the touch of another human.
A friend who does counseling once told me that a patient of his came back to visit him a few years after her counseling sessions had ended. She was doing extremely well and credited my counselor friend with her improvement.
“What was it that made the difference?” he asked, “The wisdom I shared? My insights into your family life perhaps?”
“No,” she replied.
“It was the hugs.”
Imagine with me what it must have meant to the leper that Jesus touched in Mark chapter 1. In Jewish society at that time, it was illegal to touch a leper — illegal. Lepers walked while speaking the warning, “Outcast, unclean. Outcast, unclean,” so people could stay clear and completely avoid any possibility of touching. It’s hard to think of someone who would crave the touch of another human more. Disregarding man’s law Jesus reached out. His physical touch accomplished amazing things with the leper. I want to encourage you to get in the habit of physically touching those you love. And beyond that, find others who will be encouraged by your touch — you know who they are. Show people God’s love. Do as Jesus did — touch them.
A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.