For many years as a follower of Jesus, as well as many years as a pastor, I was afraid of loving people. No, that is not correct, I wasn’t afraid, I was simply not called to love people, or so I thought. The calling I had received from the churches that I was a part of was to WIN people, not to LOVE them. Every aspect of relational involvement with people was geared at winning them over to the side of Christ. I was taught an adversarial and competitive stance that lead me to see people as the enemy, or at best those to be conquered. It was after many years of ministry that I came to understand the joy of truly just loving people.
One of the freedoms that we need to experience is to be free to love people not see them as opponents to be challenged and conquered. Now that is much easier to say than to do, because many say that they are going to change their behaviour, but they don’t change it correctly. Change is not always correct, sometimes it is just change.
Often people think they are loving when all they have done is changed their perspective on people. They view them no longer as opponents or competitors and begin to view them as projects.
I always give the example of my daughters as my understanding of the difference between people as projects verses truly loving people. I never see my 5 daughters as a project, or as people I am trying to “turn into Christians”. I simply love my girls and as a reflection of that love I desire the best for them, and the best I could hope for them is that they will come to know and to walk intimately with Christ.
It is that kind of love I have had to learn to develop for my neighbours and friends. To do this means to walk in true community with people, and to walk life with them. We need to be planted among the people and we need to allow our roots to go deep. We need to take up residence among the people that God has planted us.
This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry
and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your
daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters.
Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Jeremiah 29:4-8