Two months ago, I didn’t love you. Maybe I loved you a little, some of you a little more, some a little less. I certainly didn’t love you the way Christ commands me to love you, that is, as I love myself. Thankfully, God has shown me this problem and I have been praying that He will give me the grace to overcome it. Let me share with you just a few things that have helped me overcome this problem. (I am still a work in progress and believe me, I have not yet arrived at Christ-like love!)
Random Acts of Kindness
I recently went with a few people from our church to the local mall (the weekend before Christmas of all times) to participate in a Random Acts of Kindness outreach. For a few weeks prior to the event, we received donations from members of the church so we could go to the mall and buy people’s dinners. We went up to individuals and families as they were at the register of their dining establishment of choice in the food court and offered to pay for their meals. Some of them gave us odd looks, some were really pleased, one even broke into tears. Unlike typical evangelism, we didn’t make a deal with them and say, “I’ll buy your food if you sit and talk to me about Jesus.” We just provided a need out of love for our fellow people, and then gave them a church brochure with info about our church and a message about Christ on it. No gimmicks, no Christian trickery, no evangelistic sleight of hand. For the first time in my life, I understood how Christ must have felt when throngs of people surrounded Him as He ministered to them. In a never before seen phenomenon, as we were buying food and giving church brochures to those for whom we purchased meals, we had people surrounding us asking us for our literature. Understand, they were not asking us to buy their dinners. They saw us showing love to people and it perked their interest, and they just wanted to know who we were. I have never had such a good time in evangelism. And I do very seriously consider this evangelism. Even though we didn’t actually get to talk about the Gospel, we demonstrated the love of Christ and gave them a paper with the word of God on it.
2. Outreach to the Homeless
A few weeks later, we took blankets we collected from church members to give to homeless people turned away from shelters. Our city has passed this really stupid law that shelters can only house a certain number of homeless, even if they have beds for more. The result is that several get turned away to sleep on the streets. I was upset the day of this ministry because as I was coming home from work around 5pm (the outreach started at 7pm) I spoke to our minister of evangelism and we only had 4 blankets. I had two problems with this: I was afraid there would be more than 4 people and we would run out of blankets and this would be bad for those who didn’t get one, and I was afraid not only would some be without a blanket, but our church would be embarrassed because we only managed to round up 4 blankets. I prayed that God would either give us more blankets, or give us only 4 people. In His abounding grace, He did both. We actually wound up with 14 blankets, but we didn’t have to give any out because everyone (yes, there were 4 people outside) got a bed that night. We’re going out again next week, it’s supposed to be a lot colder, so there’ll be more people, and thankfully we have more blankets.
3. Real Conversations
I have a tendency to teach and lecture without wanting to listen, because I don’t (didn’t, that is) love people enough to really listen to their problems with Christian compassion. I’ve been studying the life of Christ lately in an attempt to learn how to deal with people, and what I have seen is His remarkable ability to talk to people. He certainly didn’t talk like Christians talk. In Mark 10, a man asked Him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life”. Notice that Jesus didn’t say, “You need to believe in me and get saved,” He talked to the man, and gently broke down his worldview. He gave him the little bit of God’s truth that he needed at that time, and sent him away to meditate on it. Maybe he came back, maybe he didn’t, but Jesus had a real conversation with him. Christians have been so determined to see a soul saved that they have neglected the rest of the man. If I really love someone, I’ll be interested in him, not just teaching him. So I’ve been trying to have real conversations with the people I see everyday.
4. My House as God’s Sanctuary
I’m terribly hobbit-like, and my house is my hole. This is at least how I felt until God began to change me. There was a “select elite” of people who I enjoyed having over to visit. Now, I can’t really explain the change outside of grace, but I like having more people over, even in-laws! (God really is amazing!) I have for so long wanted to use the abilities God gave me to minister (teaching, preaching etc.), but I was totally blind to this hunk of real estate I sit in every day. God has given me a home, not big but at least big enough to host a few people, and a wife who loves to be a hostess, but I was too thick to see how that could be used for His glory. I’m trying to now make my home a sanctuary for those who need it. (Hey, if you’re not doing anything tonight. . .)
So that’s my confession, and a list of just a few things that God’s using to change me more and more into the image of His Son. I love you. (At least I’m trying!)- A.P. Sullivan