Author: Michelle Cowen, Director of Outreach and Strategic Church Partnerships, MOPS
Have you ever been overly concerned with someone else’s wrongdoing? Or maybe you’ve found yourself distracted from the calling to love your neighbors. Maybe you have preconceived ideas of how church is “supposed” to look. Or perhaps your desire to live your life as a reflection of Jesus has been overshadowed by concern about what people would say or think.
Jesus offers the ultimate example in loving others with reckless abandon. By learning more about what he was not concerned with, we find a blueprint for how to live our lives.
Jesus chose honesty, love and relationships. He surprised everyone with whom he chose to interact.
So often we get lost in our concern of how others might perceive us or what we think about others, rather than choosing to live as a reflection of Christ’s character.
Consider three things that Jesus was not concerned with:
Jesus was not concerned with appearances. In John 4, we learn about Jesus’ interaction with a Samaritan woman at a well. Culturally speaking, this interaction was less than acceptable. Firstly, men and women interacting alone would have been problematic. Secondly, the Jewish and Samaritan people didn’t exactly get along. Jesus could have taken multiple exit routes to avoid this interaction. And yet, he engages with her in such a way that causes her to feel safe, seen and understood. In fact, by the end of their conversation, she is running back to the village to tell everyone else about who she just met.
Jesus was not afraid of the possible repercussions of speaking with her or how it might “look” to others. He instead welcomed her into conversation and shared the life-giving truth of his love.
Because Jesus engaged her in conversation, and because she believed him, there was everlasting change in her community.
Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers. They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” John 4:39-42, NIV
Jesus was not concerned about associating with the “right” people. In Luke 19:5-10 (NIV), we learn about Jesus’ interaction with a man named Zacchaeus.
When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.’’
This is perhaps one of the most beautiful things about Jesus. No one was off-limits from his love. Zacchaeus was a notorious cheat. And yet Jesus knew that the best way to get him to consider a new path and repent was by spending time with him.
With Jesus there is not a hierarchy as to who deserves his love, attention or forgiveness. Jesus invited himself over to Zaccheus’ house. They easily could have had that same conversation on the street. But Jesus wanted a true, intimate interaction. He was sending a message to those around him – a message of forgiveness and intentionality.
Jesus was not concerned with doing what was most convenient or comfortable. Most of the time when we hear stories about the feeding of the five thousand in Matthew 14, the focus is on the miraculous act of turning a small portion of food into enough to feed a large crowd.
When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.” Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” Matthew 14:13-16, NIV
Firstly, Jesus was literally trying to distance himself from a large crowd of people who followed him. Secondly, it was late and they were far from town. Lastly, everyone was hungry. Nothing about this scenario sounds convenient or comfortable. And yet Jesus knew this was the perfect opportunity to grow his disciples’ faith and care for the large crowd.
My mind skips past the miracle of multiplying fish and lands on the logistics of feeding a crowd of five thousand people. It’s the equivalent of the world’s biggest picnic with no serving utensils, trash cans or preparation. In my home, putting together dinner for two small children is sometimes challenging enough. Let alone feeding a small town’s worth of people. This scenario was far from convenient, and yet Jesus saw it as an opportunity to love those around him.
CONSIDER THIS: How then can we respond?
We see the pattern of Jesus choosing to lean in when we might find ourselves leaning out or running away. We see Jesus loving those around him when he is tired, when it is inconvenient and when there is something at stake. Ask yourself these questions:
- Am I so concerned with how I might appear to someone that I hesitate to share the love of Jesus?
- Am I overly concerned with what others might think if I befriend someone who is different from myself?
- Do I choose what is more convenient or comfortable rather than sacrificing for the needs of others?
Jesus’ example proves over and over that loving others and choosing another’s interests over our own may look unconventional. The end goal is not convenience or even our own satisfaction – the end goal is sharing the love of Jesus so that others might come to know him.
When we focus our minds and hearts on what Jesus cared about, others will inevitably seek us out to understand more about the peace, joy and satisfaction that emanate from our lives.
It is incredibly easy to become consumed with the events of our daily lives. For our judgement to be clouded by what we think is “proper” or “correct” or “best.” The truth is that Jesus loved with such reckless abandon that people began to seek him out. His love is truly contagious.
May we daily consider the radical truth that Jesus routinely engaged with people who were considered outcasts, unclean, sinners and who had largely unacceptable lifestyles. As we learn to care about what Jesus cares about and to set down our own preconceived ideas, we will be met with the joy and fulfillment that only come from Christ himself.