In my small men’s group, we’ve been going through Jeff Kemp’s book, “Facing the Blitz.” Kemp is a former NFL Quarterback who currently serves as Vice President of FamilyLife where he counsels married couples. As such, the focus of his book is on relationships and whether we approach other people with the mentality of a “consumer” or an “investor.” In encouraging people to take more of an “investor” approach, Kemp points out five common ways we choose people as friends using a consumer mentality: by performance, popularity, power, possessions, and position.
The first four are somewhat self-explanatory and easy to see how they can set conditional love as the foundation of the relationship, but the fifth is one much less commonly associated with the previous four. Here is Kemp’s definition of “position.”
“You value people by the degree to which they agree with you and your beliefs. You reject them if they fail your crucial test of aligning with your position on an issue or stance that you value over people. This is a case of wanting to be right more than wanting to be in relationship.”
How often do we fall into this trap? With the increasingly incendiary nature of our society’s public discourse, it certainly is easier to stick with people who agree with you. We even encourage it. How often do we seek out groups, clubs, or other social structures of like-minded people? When we join those groups, do we see others as individual human beings, or as fellow Dolphins/Jets fans or fellow Democrat/Republicans or, even as fellow Christians? When we identify them only for their beliefs, do we then take it a step further and identify everyone outside the group only for their beliefs? Do we judge them as being unworthy of our company because they are outsiders?
This is not Jesus’s way.
On the contrary, Jesus came and specifically sought out the people who disagreed with Him and God’s Law the most. He went to sinners, because as He put it, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.” (Mark 2:17) Obviously, when associating with people, we are not in Jesus’s position of righteousness. He is the only one who taught with the authority of being God. Since we are all sinners, we cannot teach with that authority, and therefore, we all have to recognize that we might not be right, even in how we are trying to share God and His Word with others, even if God and His Word are right.
This leaves us in a rather precarious position. On the one hand, we must not be pharisaical in elevating ourselves by pointing out how others are coming up short. Jesus is very clear on this subject, saying to remove the log from our own eyes so we can see clearly to remove the speck from our neighbor’s eye. (Matthew 7:5) On the other hand, Jesus’s final command in the Book of Matthew is to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that He commanded His disciples. (Matthew 28:19)
So, what’s the answer? If we Christians hold the keys to eternal life as we believe, how do we approach others? The answer is simple, if not easy. We must approach in love. Let’s not forget Paul’s true words:
“And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:2)
The essence of God, the reason for the Holy Trinity, is so that love can be practiced. We are not meant to agree on everything. If we were, then God would not have given us choice and free will. But, God did give us the greatest gift of all. He gave us love, and we are meant to share that with every person we encounter, regardless of how we disagree with them. Regardless of how they treat us. Regardless of their sin and ours, we are meant to engage them with love. Only when love is the basis of our relationship can we truly invest in another person rather than valuing them only for their position.