Tuesday, September 18, 2012

"I Don't Care What Anyone Says!"

Dear Christians,

Please stop using the expression “I don't care what anyone says.” I'm embarrassed to say I hear this expression from the mouths of Christians frequently. To clarify: Christians are recipients of undeserved forgiveness.  We've been charged by God to:

Obey those in authority (Hebrews 13:17)
Be all things to all people (1 Corinthians 9:22)
Only evangelize with dignity and respect (1 Peter 3:15)
Love their enemies no matter what (Matthew 5:43-44)
Live at peace with everyone as far as is possible (Romans 12:18)

There are things which Christians should not compromise on in any situation, but not compromising is not the same as not listening. It is one thing to disagree with a person. That can be done respectfully and lovingly. It is another thing to not care what they say. That kind of apathy is hurtful if not hateful, and does nothing to win them over. If someone disagrees with you they are going to go right on disagreeing if you won't be civil. Without listening to your “enemy” you don't earn the right to be listened to.

When I was younger I was passionate about evangelism. Sadly I was also an ass. I shared my understanding of God's goodness and love at the slightest provocation, but I'm afraid that I was a pathetic ambassador of the gospel. I was pathetic because I didn't care what anyone thought. I thought this attitude was brave; it is not. It is unloving. I would ask people about their religious beliefs and then proceed to wait for my turn to speak. I didn't listen to them because I didn't care what they said. This was an incredibly disrespectful practice.

Listening is one of the most basic and essential ways to show a person love. By failing to listen I failed to share out the gospel I was so excited to talk about. I didn't win any hearts because I didn't demonstrate God's love. When we aren't listening we aren't loving.

Sharing Music, Roman Style by Ed Yourdon
We talk often in Christian gatherings about a need to love our neighbors, to act generously, and to be ambassadors for Christ. We rarely discuss the vital and loving act of listening to people we disagree with. Let's change that. Listening is a loving and generous action; it shows God's love practically and powerfully. Let's give it a try.

Who do you find hardest to love? Likely they're the person who is hardest to listen to. Try this new tactic this week.

  1. Don't try to love them.
  2. Meditate on the great patience and love God has shown you.
  3. Look at what you have in common with your challenging friend.
  4. Let me know what happens.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Jesus Is A Hugger

The worst is not knowing whether or not to hug somebody. You see somebody you love, value and perhaps miss dearly; you smile widely and move forward to . . . second guess yourself.
Photo by Joi Ito
I do this. I ruin hugs. I rush toward them and then I hesitate,
“Are we 'huggin' friends?” I wonder at the worst moment possible, “Is this ok?” “Will this make them uncomfortable?” “Will it ruin everything?”
Now I've waited too long and it's awkward either way.
I ought to be honest with myself. I've never lost a friend because I hugged them. Only once in all of my memory have I hugged a person and known it was a mistake. They didn't want my hug. In my defense we went from hugging friends to non-hugging friends overnight via hearsay and gossip. Not my bad. They hugged back though, but their body language told me not to hug that guy again.
Hugs are seldom mistakes, still I hesitate though my pro-hug instincts tell me I've left friends in need without the hugs they craved.
Humans need hugs. You've probably heard that babies face huge challenges when deprived of touch. A human being's need for physical contact doesn't evaporate once they learn to walk. We all need touch. We need hugs. I'm in the camp that recommends 12 a day.
Hugs. I need hugs; I love them - but I'm so awkward. I love people, but I get so stupid self-conscious that I talk myself out of hugging. I'm terrified they'll be all weird because I busted out the hugs, despite the fact that this has literally never happened.
“Don't be weird about this” I tell myself. “They like you.”
I love hugging-friends. I don't mean just my friends I hug regularly. I love them, but I especially appreciate those friends who hug no matter what the time and place are. I love their confidence. They never sneak hug, side hug, one arm, or awkwardly hug too slowly or for too long. These are friends for whom hugs are a special ministry. They remind me that I'm OK, and that touch is good.
I am not yet one of these people. I don't have the joy that they do. The hugs they give are given liberally and lovingly. My hugs smack of a fear of rejection. This is a shortcoming. This is not God's will for me; scripture says perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18). Slowly but surely God is getting me there. I can count on Jesus for that.
You see, Jesus touched the untouchables. He was a hugger. He was a hugging-friend. He IS a hugging-friend. He's not afraid of our rejection, but liberally offers his heart to anyone. Jesus loves us without hesitation, judgement or fear. Despite our resistance to him, Jesus never hesitates to bring us into his arms.
I'm held back by fear, but knowing God's love helps me move forward. What keeps you from passing that love forward? What gives you courage?