I desire to live a life that has eternal impact. My hope and prayer is that I am able to be someone who lets others know the love of Jesus. I have this burning in my heart for people to experience the Gospel of Jesus and have him totally change their lives. But one of things that I have learned is that this is not something that I can set up programs or events for and then divorce myself from the real day to day living with people.
Mind you, it is really easy to spend my life with people that are like me. I don’t have to be intentional about opening myself up to these people. It is pretty natural and acceptance is easy as well. Because they are already like me, so why would I have a hard time accepting them. It’s with people that are different from me where the problem lies. If we are honest, we don’t naturally gravitate to people who are different than us. In fact, if I am really honest, I make judgements that determine my actions towards these people. The judgements are 9 times out 10, negative and my level of openness and acceptance of them is low. This is a huge stumbling block to the Gospel of Jesus. Think about it. The Gospel is about acceptance from God to those who don’t deserve it and for the most part don’t want it. As followers of Jesus, we must be the most open and accepting people on the planet.
In a book I have been reading called, Cross Cultural Servanthood by Duane Elmer, the author talks about these two things. Openness with people requires that you are willing to step out of your comfort zone and initiate and sustain relationships with people who are different than you. That we are willing to welcome people in and make them feel safe is acceptance. The cross is God’s ultimate sign of his openness to us and our welcome into a relationship with him shows his acceptance of us.
So how do we become more open and accepting of people who look different than us, talk different than us, and believe different things than us? Well first we need to retrain our minds to suspend judgement of people. We need to look at people as Jesus does, created in the image of God. We need to ask the Lord to give us his eyes to see people with his heart. Secondly, we need to learn how to make people feel valued and respected; and we need to learn how to communicate dignity and respect to those around us. In order for that to happen we actually have to begin to value people as image bearers of God and not the superficial labels that we use to define them. We need to think of others as more significant than ourselves.
All of this leads to deep trust because then people realize we actually have their interests in mind. Paul asks us to be like this in Philippians 2:3-8. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
The questions I have had for myself is: Do I really love people from a truly open and accepting heart? And, do I honestly live my life in a way that demands a Gospel explanation? DO you?