I’ve been around heaps of different people. Some of this comes from growing up as a pastor’s kid. To that end, different people whom I remember include:
- The Cross-Dressing Greeter: When I was around 10 years old, in the late 1970’s, we had a greeter in our church who was a crossdresser. I asked my dad about this person since he had a full beard and wore a dress to greet people on Sunday mornings. My dad explained that everyone needs Jesus. Reflecting back now, I think my dad was a few decades ahead of his time.
- Cranky Alice: She was a tough old bird. I’ll never forget when she read the riot act to a guy who was being sketchy with me, a 4th grader at the time. Alice was prickly and sour, but for whatever reason, occasionally, she had a soft spot in her heart for me.
- Hungarian Csaba: This guy was part of the Hungarian revolt against the Soviet occupation in 1956, and he came to our church when I was a teenager. He was wiry, insightful and very intense with piercing blue eyes. Unfortunately, he died too young.
One of the things I appreciate from my dad is acceptance of people, regardless of where they were at in their journey of life. He enjoyed people, liking humans no matter what they did or didn’t do and regardless of their choices.
As I think about my dad and our modern Christianity, sometimes I think that we have maybe lost this “people-plasticity.” It seems like we want conformity at the expense of unity with variety. This can often play out in how we interface with people who have different political views, economic perspectives, moral stringency, biblical solidarity, personalities, COVID viewpoints and heaps more. It seems like we are often willing to sacrifice genuine love on the altar of conformity.
Here are some questions to think about:
- Do we struggle to authentically love people who are very different from us?
- Do our political persuasions have a higher priority in our thinking than our relational loyalty?
- Is our “love” contingent on how the other person responds?
- Does our love have prerequisites or qualifying obstacles?
- Does a person have to “measure up” to our values and standards to receive our love?
- If someone is really different from us (economically, politically, morally, socially, ethnically, intellectually and even religiously), what is our love quotient for such a different person?
It’s really important to consider these questions on the backdrop of Jesus’ top priority, which is genuine love. I say this because Jesus makes it super clear that His essential priority for His followers is genuine love, based on John 13:35: “By this all people will know that you are My disciples: if you have love for one another.” In this verse, Jesus says that genuine love is the top characteristic, the identifying feature, for being His follower. It’s even possible to say that if we aren’t loving, we aren’t following Jesus.
In thinking about the importance that Jesus gives to genuine love, it can be helpful to have some people-plasticity because the world in which we live has lots of different people! When we find it difficult to love certain kinds of people, maybe we need to make ourselves available for God to love us. I say this because 1 John 4:19 says, “We love, because He first loved us.” Have a happy day overflowing with genuine love!