To love like Jesus is to choose to see people and circumstances how God sees them.
The other night I found myself in line…the same line for the second time. And all because I’d made an assumption.
Our family attended the church vision meeting. It was a blessing to hear the pastors untied, sharing their vision for Summitview and the exciting changes ahead. Then Travis showed off all the merch available to help unite us as a tribe (sorry…family) and remind us of our purpose here on earth—to love like Jesus.
I loved it. I wanted some. So I bee-lined it for the lobby and got in line. Sixty-two dollars later I had five tee shirts and a sticker. But I’d made an assumption—that Eric, my husband, would want the black tee. I assumed wrongly.
In that case, it was no big deal. I got back in line and swapped the black tee out for the blue one he wanted. But how many times in life do I make other assumptions that aren’t so inconsequential? That lead to judgement and hurt feelings or lost opportunity?
When I started homeschooling 17 years ago, I assumed we would always homeschool, that it would be the best thing for everyone in the family. Only it didn’t turn out that way. One of my children struggled, became angry and then bitter. Family relations suffered. Still Eric and I dug our heels in because we did not send our children to public school until we knew for certain they were strong enough to stand on their own two feet and not get swept away by all the lies and temptations “out there” in the public schools. The trouble was, we were trusting in the method of homeschooling and the perceived safety it offered to “keep” our children rather than on the Holy Spirit indwelling them. Once we finally relented (mostly out of despair) and said okay to public school, that child thrived. And God proved he was more than capable of “keeping” and even perfecting the very child I’d been intent on sheltering.
I’d like to say this was an exception rather than the norm, but I can’t. I make assumptions about people all the time. Like a former manager who was a tough-as-nails Army veteran. She was critical, harsh, overbearing. I struggled to respect her, let alone like her. But one day during a very rough review meeting she shared how she had grown up in an abusive home. Her father had been both physically and sexually abusive, and that pattern had followed her into and then out of the military. She left that managerial position shortly afterwards, due mainly to the fact that her team (of which I was a part) was disrespectful and uncooperative. Could I have changed that? If I had been friendlier to her, perhaps she would have felt accepted, less ostracized. If I had been more outspoken to the other team members when they were griping about her, perhaps I could have helped build a more positive work culture. If she had stayed, perhaps I would have had the opportunity to share the love of God and the gospel message with her. How many other people have I failed to truly see because I was too busy making assumptions about them? How many other times have I missed opportunities to share God’s love and the gospel message? I need to remember that “people look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 6:7).
The reality is, more often than not my assumptions turn out to be wrong. And as sure as I vow something will be a certain way, God challenges that assumption. “You want to bet?” he seems to say. Perhaps that’s because my assumptions are usually rooted in the desires, hurts and stubbornness of my flesh. Romans 8:5-8 says, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
Whenever I set my mind on the things of the flesh and jump to conclusions, I put myself at odds with God. My flesh vs. God’s Spirit always results in bad outcomes. The flesh must be crucified, and so God upends my assumptions. He drives me to my knees, where I should have been all along. When I finally stop and seek his face, the Holy Spirit can bring redemption. Sometimes that means the outcome changes for the better—like my child who is thriving in a different learning environment. Sometimes I have to live with a lost opportunity—the manager I will never be able to reach with God’s love. In these cases, God’s redemption is different. It comes in the form of forgiveness, greater awareness and sensitivity on my part, and hope for a different action and outcome next time. In any case, God works in my life, perfecting me to see people and circumstances as he sees them.
I think those tee shirts have greater meaning for me now, and any time I see one of you sporting one I’ll be reminded to stop making assumptions, set my mind on the Spirit and see where he leads. But isn’t that what loving like Jesus is all about?