I am always evaluating people. My parents raised me to be discerning about people, so that I wouldn’t allow myself to be conned, fooled, or victimized. In my family, we refer to this discernment about people as ‘having a jerk alarm.’ Of course, I didn’t reach adulthood with a fully developed ability to recognize any person who had bad intentions. But I am a collector of information, and over the years my senses about people have become more astute. But I have also developed a problem: passive discernment has morphed into active judgement. I look on others with a judgmental eye rather than a loving one. God has been convicting me about this for a long time, but I am slow to change. Part of me wants to excuse myself because I am an introvert; perhaps my subconscious is looking for reasons to not make friends. But the truth is that I am simply making excuses for not loving others as I ought to. Not only am I being disobedient to God, but there is an arrogance and pride behind it all that is equally sinful.
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
1 John 4:10-12
I think of myself as more of an information-person than a people-person. Because I am talkative, I get mistaken for being an extrovert. But interacting with people drains me. Of course, we all know that some people are easier for us to deal with than others. I enjoy people who like to share information. The give-and-take of knowledge is satisfying to me. I also find that my fellow introverts demand less of me and understand better my need for time to myself. But the Bible tells me that it is the people who are most difficult to love that I should be most concerned with loving. After all, if we only interact with the people we are most comfortable with, we will limit our opportunities to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.
1 John 4:8 states, “Anyone who does not love does not know God. . .” Loving others is supposed to be a natural extension of God’s love in our lives. The fact that it has always been difficult for me, must indicate a problem somewhere in my relationship with God. I want God to use me as a writer and teacher, yet I struggle to show the love of Christ to the people around me. I can’t use my personality as an excuse. God has sent some new and different people into my life and placed a challenge in front of me. Yet, here I am dragging my feet on this path because I don’t really want to take the time and energy to love the way that God wants me to. That kind of love is an investment, and it seems like the investment is more than I want to commit to. So, I’ve been having a tantrum, and I am sure God must be tired of my behavior.
[Jesus said,] “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
If I am going to love, I need to humble myself. I need to let go of my self-centered lifestyle. God has placed a clear decision before me. Sometimes we can fudge and say that we aren’t really sure what God wants from us, but this situation is crystal clear. There are no more excuses; it’s now or never to change my heart and learn to love those that He has brought into my life who need His love. I already sense God’s work in my heart to change my perceptions of certain people. I feel the Spirit telling me that it isn’t as difficult as I think that it will be. Still I need to submit and let go of my preferences. I need to save discernment for the crucial decisions of life and stop with the little judgments that keep my heart at a distance from others.
I know that one of the tools I need to use is prayer. I need to pray for the people whom I need to love. There is a bond created by petitioning the Lord on behalf of another. I think of the Kosovar pastor that my church partners with. He shares a testimony about praying for the Serbians when they were at war with Kosovo. He said that he would pray for them in Serbian – in their own language – because it helped him to be in unity with the Serbian believers and to not hate the Serbian people. This testimony is a good reminder to keep my perspective. God can help us to love even in the most desperate circumstances, but He has not called me to endure anything so drastic. If I will submit to Him and rely on Him, I know that I will be happier. That is the paradox of Christianity that is difficult for even the seasoned believer to keep in mind: those tasks which seem most distasteful and tedious turn out to bring the most joy when we obey. I need to begin by investing time in prayer for this heart issue and for the people in my life that I am struggling to love. It is definitely time to stop dragging my feet.