There are certain groups of people I really identify with and am engaged by (mentally, emotionally, spiritually) and others who seem to render me mute, weary and even kind of bummed after I’ve been with them. My answer to this, at one point, would have been to minimize the time with the life-suckers and increase the time I spend with the life-givers. Oh how glad I am that this is not Jesus’ guiding principle for interacting with people!
My philosophy is so counter to the Gospel for at least a few reasons: 1. it looks for life in people/relationships, 2. the purpose of those relationships/interactions is entirely self-centered, and 3. I cannot genuinely love well when having my needs met is front and center for those interactions.
1. You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. John 5:39-40 When I go to spend time with people, whether its my husband or my family or a dinner party of some sort, inevitably I guage my excitement on going and assess the value of the time after the fact, by the way it “fed” me. I can’t tell you how increasingly often I leave being with people and feel disappointed, out of sorts or just worn out. This is because, even though subconsciously, I am looking for people to fill me with life when it can only be found in Jesus. When they don’t feed my need to be engaged, agreed with, inspired, or in some other way filled up from our time together, I am left short. All the while, they were never not ever able nor intended to be the source of life to begin with!
2. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Phil. 2:3-4 When I am approaching a gathering of people, whether it be one other person or a large party, from the perspective of my comfort level, my “fitting in”, my receiving life or losing it from those I am with, my focus is entirely self-absorbed. The people around me and their needs, interests and lives are only secondary to my own and judged in relation to me and mine. Jesus did not serve, interact with nor give of Himself because there was something missing within Him that needed to be filled by those people. Because He was full of Life, He could give. He didn’t need to be served by the respect, admiration, agreement, or whatever we demand from others, but instead could serve them because all these needs were already fully met in Him by the Father.
3. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. Luke 6:32-34
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. John 15:12
No matter how I want to talk about “unconditionally loving” others, its just not true. When people’s responses to me directly impact my response to them (make me withdraw, make me snap back at them, make me harbor bitterness toward them, etc.), this is a direct indication that my love toward them is extremely conditional. I don’t want it to be, but it is. Jesus does not withdraw from me when I shut Him out, get angry with Him or don’t believe Him. He doesn’t snap at me in frustration and irritation nor does He harbor warranted bitterness toward me. His love for me is not based on me but entirely on Him.
When I only run to be with people who make me feel validated, respected, loved, this is not loving them as Jesus loves me. This is using people to meet my needs as only Jesus in His fullness can fill me. Oh life suck that I am, would I begin to experience what it is to find life in Him alone so that I could love others better and more unconditionally.