In this post I would like to put down some thoughts that have occurred to me recently about loving people. This is an area I have struggled with a lot due to various experiences with insincere Christians in insincere churches.
Something that struck me quite powerfully was this:
Just because someone has poor character does not mean that they are worthless! I have written before on this blog about being made in the image of God, and the fact that we are all made in this same image! This means that no matter what someone may have done, or may be or may not be, then they are incredibly valuable. This is quite a shift in mindset for me. I have always despised it when people evaluate others based on external criteria such as education level, financial status, ethnicity. However, I too have had my own criteria for evaluating others as being valuable or worthless. Usually when I decide that someone has poor character then that is it. I usually just ditch the person in question conclusively and allow myself to write them off. What this means in practice is that I will cut off all contact with them and allow myself to have no further contact with them. To be fair to myself I don’t jump to conclusions and I try to objectively assess people as far as I can. This is so different from people who will immediately make judgements and conclusions about you based on prejudices and stereotypes which were never even true in the first place. (Coincidentally I always despise people like that as well, who show themselves so quick to make completely invalid judgements. Or at least, I’ve always allowed myself to despise people like that. But then I guess that what I’m also realising is that I should never allow myself to despise anybody at all.)
But the point of this realisation is that even when people genuinely have very poor character, they are still so precious in the eyes of God. God still loves them and wants the best for their lives, and believes that they are capable of amazing things. This is the mindset that I too have to cultivate.
Depending on the character traits displayed, it might still be prudent for me to cultivate a certain distance between me and these people. I would not choose to immerse myself into anyone’s negativity, or cultivate these people as the people who would have the biggest influence over my life (at least not while they remain poor in character). And yet in thinking of them I’ve got to keep focused not on the parts of their character which I find unacceptable, but rather on the fact that according to God they are valuable human beings. God loves them and so must I!
As I’m writing this, it occurs to me that I have written this before, and not too long either. A big frustration I have with myself is that it takes me so long to truly absorb lessons that I learn. Sometimes something will have to occur to me over and over and over again before it finally trickles down into my thinking, and from there into my behaviour. What is positive though is that this is occurring to me over and over again, which at least indicates that it is something that I need to take seriously.
Loving people…even when you know what they are
Thankfully this following is a new idea that has never occurred to me before: many people, perhaps most people, have very poor character. We all try to be nice and to be liked, but on scratching the surface, character is not something that most people have invested into heavily in their own lives. As Christians we are called to love everyone. It is only when you find out what people are really like, that you can truly commit to loving them. This is true of people generally, and then of individuals. It is only when you accept what people on the whole are like that you can truly commit to loving people generally, and be confident in that. Similarly it is only when you know what an individual is truly like, that you can truly commit to loving them, otherwise you are committing to an illusion. Eventually you might find yourself to have been deceived not only in the other person but even also in yourself, for instance if you react very differently to how you may have expected when finally faced with their flaws.
1 Peter 1v22:
Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit[a] in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart,
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