Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:13-21 that God intends to use us as ambassadors, His representatives that help to reconcile others to God through Christ. This is an important job! How can we possibly do it right?
Thankfully Paul helps us out—he tells us that we need to allow Christ’s love to control us rather than our own perspective, to see others with the compassion that Christ would see them rather than through our own preferences and interests. Once we can see others through Christ’s eyes, then we can begin to treat them with appreciation the way Christ would and represent God properly.
If you are familiar with the stories of Jesus’ life from the gospels, you will know that Jesus always reached out to people He encountered in a way that fit their needs. Sometimes it was very simple to see what someone’s needs were—Jesus often healed those with debilitating diseases, a clear sign that they had met someone special!
However, it was often more difficult to identify someone’s personal needs and took more understanding on Jesus’ part. When Jesus encountered the tax collector Zacchaeus in Luke 19, Jesus knew that this was a despised man who collected money from his own Jewish people to give to the imperial Roman government. Jesus, a respected religious teacher, honored Zacchaeus by asking to be his guest. This act of acknowledgment and respect for a man who lacked both of these things moved Zacchaeus so much that he immediately dedicated his life to the poor and to honest practices.
In John 4, Jesus met a Samaritan woman who was married and divorced five times and so was considered of low standing among the Samaritans. The Samaritans themselves were looked down upon by the Jews as outsiders. Even so, Jesus not only wanted the Samaritans to hear His message, but Jesus chose her as the person to represent Him to the Samaritans. Jesus speaks to her kindly about her life and tells her that He is the Messiah and that the time would soon come when the Samaritans would be welcomed as God’s worshipers. The woman was so inspired by the encounter—that the Messiah would speak to her and encourage her—that she left her work behind and told everyone she knew about what happened.
This gift that Jesus had for seeing and addressing others’ needs is not one that comes naturally to us, and we must each work to develop it if we want to show the love of Christ to others in a way that will be meaningful to them. Each person has something they need to feel loved, and it is up to us to evaluate our relationships to think about what we can do to help with these needs. It takes daily prayer and consideration to understand others’ needs and we will need Christ’s strength to accomplish it, so be sure to rely on these as you go!
We can show honor—when someone I know is feeling unappreciated or unimportant I try to use the opportunity to show my appreciation for what they do. Maybe a conversation with a coworker about how well they do something, a look back at a friend’s accomplishments, or a hopeful, optimistic discussion about what you think someone can achieve. Companionship is vital as well—spending time or seeking conversation with those that are depressed or withdrawn and think no one cares can mean a lot. Many people are missing a presence in their life—such as support or encouragement they would normally get from a parent or friend who is no longer around.
Once you’ve identified a way to support someone, you must simply do your best to represent Christ to them, learning to truly appreciate their character and friendship and to take the opportunities Christ gives us to help them and share your faith. Over time the trust and respect between you will allow you to share the hope that you have in Christ, encouraging them to pursue goals they may never have thought attainable before, and ultimately to pursue the relationship with Christ that will save them. Showing God’s love and appreciation for each person is how Jesus reached those that He met, and it’s the best way for us to reach others as well!
If you missed out on this week's sermon, check it out here.