-Justin Long, Elder at M.J. Campus
Do you often feel like you are surrounded by people who just don’t get it? Do you feel as if people are consistently getting in your way and frustrating your plans, as if life would be much simpler without all of these hindrances? Are you regularly annoyed with their limited understanding or their complete lack of consideration toward others? Consider this! Jesus Christ displayed perfect humanity (that is the fullness of what it means to be human by glorifying God), and even he got on the nerves of those around him. Not because there was anything wrong with him, but because there was something very wrong with the perception of those around him.
Take this Pharisee for instance, [While Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee asked him to dine with him, so he went in and reclined at table. The Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash before dinner. And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.”] (Luke 11:37-39 ESV)
You see, the perception that this Pharisee had of Jesus was that there was something wrong with Jesus, because he didn’t practice the outward ritual of washing before dinner. Ultimately, the statement that this Pharisee was implicitly making was, “Jesus, you are not like me, therefore you must be in the wrong.” Now, we can see by the response from Jesus that it is the Pharisee who is undoubtedly in the wrong for the condition of his heart. And while it may be obvious to us that if we are ever to be compared to Christ that it is we who fall short, but these comparisons become blurred when we put ourselves up against other sinful people. Too often we only investigate the outward appearance of righteousness in our lives, and then evaluate it against the outward appearance of others. This according to Jesus is of no value, in fact it is self-deception at best. Instead of standing in awe of our outward glory (which I’m certain is no spectacle in its self) we ought to be zooming in on the dirt and grit within us that Jesus refers to as “greed and wickedness.” If we will really take the time to examine ourselves and honestly assess the condition of our hearts, I am convinced that we will quickly begin to realize that people are not our problem. We are our own problem. Instead of seeing others as hindrances and annoyances, we ought to see them as an opportunity placed before us by our Lord to increase our joy by serving them for the sake of the name of Jesus. In Jesus’ own words he says,
“… Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back…. love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:27-36 ESV)
Indeed it is grace that He would call us (the needy) to serve others in need, and it is grace that places the needy before us. For if we had no enemies before us to serve, then there would be none who could receive the conditional reward spoken of by Christ when he said, “love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great.” So the next time you are faced with a People Problem, think not problem but opportunity.