“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and … Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37-38 NIV
Jesus gave us two primary directives: love God and love people.
I heard it broken down this simply at the church across the street. I felt desperate to attend an in-person service and they reopened in May. My plan was to go there until my home church opened its doors. Turns out, I joined Solid Rock last week.
It seems God planned this out well in advance even though I flinched several times that first Sunday and wondered if I’d return.
“We’re a church of Love, yes we are.”
“Love God. Love people.”
“I will fulfill my destiny,” which I figured meant the same thing – love God, love people.
The church’s four core values hung boldly at the front, printed on silk banners. They said even more about, well, you know: We forgive. We respect. We give. We serve.
If you’ve hung around my blog and other social media much at all, you know my slogan is #gettingyourownlife #whilelovingthepeopleinit. I decided a while back that, just like with my separate hash tags, living my life needed to be separate from loving my people because it hurt too much to love some of them. I put distance between them and me because of pain.
I needed my purpose as a form of protection, not as a way to put myself out there more.
I wanted my purpose to stand between my people and me, not draw them closer.
I planned how to safely live my purpose, not how to suffer while I served.
What I had in mind was love God, live my purpose, interact online with people.
That was, until I walked across the street for a second Sunday and heard a sermon titled, “Committed To My Calling.” I can’t make this stuff up.
In short, here’s what he preached, “Your Christian calling, your church calling, and your career calling are one and the same – to love God and love people, to serve God and serve people, and to honor God and honor people.”
I still wondered how to keep God close while keeping people at a distance. Don’t misunderstand me, I L-O-V-E people … well, the best I know how to love them. In fact, loving people (my way) was the problem. Loving people my way caused all sorts of suffering in my life and in theirs too.
Maybe an accurate substitute for “I love people” was I’m addicted to people.
I loved them so much that I hurt myself trying to take care of them. Not in the way Jesus suffered for people, but in the way 12-step programs tell us not to. The steps say don’t enable, which means don’t do for people what they can do for themselves, but we do it anyway.
I loved people so much that I made decisions that were best for them and then carried out those decisions. I worked harder at their lives than they did.
I loved them so much that I may have literally “loved them to death” if God hadn’t stopped me.
The next thing I heard in the sermon, “Our purpose never changes and we can’t retire from it.”
How about run from it? Can we do that?
How about I never come back to this church? How about that?
I have to tell you, hearing my safe plans sermonized away sounded like a death sentence, not a way of life. I thought, I’m way too tired from doing this the wrong way to learn how to love people without trying to change them, fix them, or find something wrong with them. It’d be easier to find another church.
But then I heard what I’ve listened to a thousand times before, maybe ten thousand times. This time I really, really, really heard it.
“Of course you can’t love people the right way. If you could, you’d already be doing it, and you wouldn’t need Jesus.”
I needed Jesus.
I needed …
To sit still with Him, not tell someone else they needed quiet time.
To let Him heal me, not try to talk Him into healing someone else.
To allow Him time and space to prepare me for what He wanted me to do, not instruct someone else about what I thought He wanted them to do.
I’m not talking about spending 15 minutes in the morning with Jesus before I began the important stuff. I’m talking about the most important stuff in my day being my time with Him.
Until that day of hearing, really, really, really hearing …
I didn’t spend time daily with Jesus. I was too busy with others – not loving, serving, and honoring them, BUT making suggestions, trying hard to give them what I thought they needed, and trying even harder to get what I needed from them.
People were my gods.
When I wasn’t idolizing them, I idolized the pain they caused. I spent way too much time talking about and trying to straighten out them and myself. I went back and forth trying to fix relationships, seldom including God, which meant never finding a solution.
I meant well, but my good intentions paved a road to hell just like the quote says. I wasn’t looking or acting more like Jesus because I wasn’t hanging out with Him.
Rashawn Copeland, author of Start Where You Are: How God Meets You in Your Mess, Loves You Through It, and Leads You Out of It, said it best in an interview with Hope Writers, “I’m no good to anyone if I’m operating out of myself.”
The more time I spent with Jesus, the less I flinched about loving people.
When we finally come to our wits’ end, to the end of ourselves, to the end of the thread we’re hanging by – we’re bushed enough, beaten down enough, and broken enough that Jesus can finally bless us enough. That way, we can go out into a bushed, beaten down, and broken world and live our Purpose.
Is there anyone else sidetracked and missing out on living your purpose because of relationships and the pain they’ve caused?
Jesus, bless us with loving You so that we can love our people well.
In This Together,