Tony Kriz has an article in Leadership Journal’s online magazine in February where he tells a story about leading an evangelism seminar. He subtitles the seminar “Cross Spiritual Communication” or “How to talk about your faith without being a total jerk.” He then starts the seminar with “How do we Christians lie… How do we lie when evangelizing?” He says the room ends up being like “pure discovery in action.” The last lie he says is:
Finally, and most importantly, we lie (insidious and barbaric lying) when we pretend like we really, really, really love the other person when in fact we don’t. We do not love people when we dismiss their story (including their hopes, values, beliefs and convictions). We do not love people when we do not empathically listen to them, as opposed to spending that time formulating a counter-argument. We do not love others when we reduce them to labels, caricatures, or opponents. If we love, then we will find them shockingly beautiful and fascinating creations. We will find their stories riveting. We will radiate affection. Humans know deep down when they are or are not truly loved.
My response: It is hard to love without relationship. But I know God loves everyone, and so in my own feeble way I will try to see everyone as Christ does, and in that way love them as best I can.
His point has validity when we do dismiss peoples’ stories. We do need to be open to ministry to those different than us. There is also room for recognizing that we are not called to be involved in everyone’s life that we ever come in contact with on that level. Most of our witness is not direct, but living a life in front of them that reveals Jesus. For every leper Jesus talked to and healed, there were probably hundreds if not thousands that He didn’t talk to or heal. And if He did, he would not have done the other things He did because His focus was on the “leprosy” ministry. Let God guide you into ministry, not someone else’s burdens. There is also room for knowing that there are people that we cannot minister to because of baggage, in their life or ours. There are people, that if we tried to help, we would be enabling them in their problems rather than lead them to Jesus. And there are people, that if we tried to help, we would find our faith shipwrecked on the rocks of life. It is God who calls us and equips us and leads us into ministry.
Love does not mean we will find everyone’s story riveting. It does not mean we will radiate affection – there is truth to tough love actions. I think Tony misses the point about agape love – his definition sounds like a social experience. So, what is love? What is at the heart of the 2nd great commandment to “love our neighbor as our self” (Leviticus 19:18)? I have listed several verses below, but let’s talk about it. What does this commandment mean? How do we live it out? Feel free to use the following verses as a starting point:
1 Corinthians 13 – bears, believes, hopes, endures
John 15:13 – Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.
John 13:34 – A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
1 john 4:11 – Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
1 John 4:12 – No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.
1 John 4:19 – We love, because He first loved us.
Luke 10:30-37 – Parable of the Good Samaritan
Matthew 5:44 – But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you
Luke 7:47 – For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.
Romans 13:10 – Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
Galatians 5:22-23 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
1 John 4:7 – Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
Love (NASB) – OT:250, NT: 234
So, we can define love, we can describe in some sense what it looks like, but what does it look like in our own life?
10/1 Principle: Bless the first 10 people you meet, and do one act of kindness each day. How do we bless? Pray, word of encouragement, listen, statement – This is not always vocal, nor do they have to know it is us. This can be anonymous. One of the things that needs to happen is that blessing people needs to become a habit, an automatic response, not just for 10 people a day, but for everyone in our day. We become agents of love, agents of God’s blessing.