“I remember you in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you. I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” (Romans 1:9b-12). Paul’s longing to be with his brothers and sisters is a reminder to me: do not take for granted opportunities to be together with the church. I am reminded how many times I have been strengthened by time together with my fellow Jesus-followers. How rich is this idea of mutual encouragement! I encourage. I am encouraged. That’s the way it works. That’s why I need to be with the church.
Donald Miller writes, “What if the whole idea you were in competition with everybody around you was a lie? What if you were just supposed to connect and enjoy?” We live in a hyper-competitive world. We want to compete and win in sports, academics, the corporate world, politics, and I’m afraid, even in church. What would happen in church if we were to just relax and connect?
In the unlikely event the plane loses pressure and masks drop, parents are told to put on their own mask before putting one on their child. Is that selfish? No, the parent must have oxygen to be able to help the child. Similarly, if you want a better relationship (with spouse, friend, co-worker, or church), work on being a better person yourself before trying to change him, her, or them.
“People are people and not the keys of a piano.” – Dostoevsky
Jesus always treated people with respect for their humanity.
The disciples did not want to be interrupted by children.
Jesus welcomed them.
The teachers of the law and Pharisees used the woman caught in adultery as a tool to argue about the law.
Jesus responded redemptively.
Follow Jesus as he walks from town to town and you see him noticing people, touching people, talking to people, and allowing people to interrupt his routine. Jesus listens to people, engages people, and responds to them with compassion and love. And Jesus doesn’t steer clear of troubled people. He talks with the hurting. He takes time with those who have been battered by religion. He even cares for those who use religion like a club.
Jesus treats people with honor and respect for their humanity. Jesus allows people to exercise free will, even if that means allowing them to sadly walk away from him.
As I think of how Jesus treated people with dignity, I recall occasions when I have responded to people with compassion, love, forgiveness and a respect for their personhood. But I also remember times when I have treated people very differently. Disdain. Contempt. Disgust. I remember times when I used people for what benefit I could gain from them, with a disregard for their humanity. I remember times when I wanted to control people, with a lack of respect for their free will.
Help me remember, people are people.
People made in Your image.
People You love.
People for whom You gave Your Son.
Open my eyes, that I might see them.
My ears that I might listen.
My heart that I might give them respect and honor.
And forgive me, O God, when I sin against them, and You.
In Jesus’ name,