As a follower of Jesus you care about the people around you. So how do you respond to your coworker who makes snide remarks about Christians, or your classmate who invites you to help promote a LGBTQ event? How do you deal with your spouse who never goes to church with you, or your Bible study friend who is living with crippling anxiety? What would it look like to love this person as Jesus would? Can you make Jesus irresistible to them?
While the situations above are all different the common denominator is that in some way you represent Jesus to that person. They can’t see or hear Jesus “in the flesh,” but they can see and hear you. What can you do?
You need at least three kinds of people in your life; those who are ahead of you who you can follow as they follow Christ, those beside you who you connect with for mutual support, challenge, prayer, and encouragement, and those you are reaching out to to help them either become a follower of Jesus or grow in their Christian maturity. Today we’re talking about the third category–people who God has placed in your life to help in some way.
Let’s dismiss the option of hiding and pretending you’re not a follower of Jesus. And let’s dismiss the option of using Scripture as a club in a way to harass and alienate. What we see in the gospels and contemporary brain science provide some better options for how to make Jesus irresistible to others.
What is Your Role?
When I was in seminary Dr. Thomsen Matthew, our dean, said something that has stuck with me: “Your role is to connect that person’s story with God’s story, and to then get out of the way.”
Some Christians try to take on the role of Junior Holy Spirit. And frankly, they’re terrible at it. That job has already been taken! Don’t you recoil when someone tries to tell you what your’re supposed to do? Most other people do too.
In the gospels Jesus rarely told people what to do. Oh, His teaching was disruptive. But Jesus’ standard way of operating was not spouting off “God said,” or “You’re going to hell if you do that.” He was primarily with people. His very presence was almost irresistibly attractive and at the same time called people up to a higher better version of who they were meant to be.
Is that the effect you have on people?
If you are truly like Jesus not everyone will like you. But as you become more and more Fully Alive, increasingly transformed yourself, you will be attractive to people in the way Jesus was attractive. And people will sense by being around you that there’s another option from the way they’ve been living.
A Bit of Brain Science
Poet, author, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”
“How you made them feel.” That’s right-brain stuff. Dumping more facts, more “truth”, into someone’s head rarely if ever changes them. Before they can even hear you someone needs to sense that you are for them.
Think of how you learned to talk, drive a car, cook, or fish. Or how you learned about relationships, feelings, intimacy, conflict, values, etc. You learned how to be a human being by being with other humans. Sure, they were faulty. But your brain didn’t change by learning facts; you grew and became who you are most profoundly by the people you have been with.
You don’t change your brain by getting mad at it, by trying harder to “make” it do something different, or by stuffing more knowledge into your head. If you’ve experienced trauma you didn’t find healing by learning a list of truths. Whatever degree of healing you’ve experienced has come from being seen, known, believed, cared about by someone and/or by God.
You help your neighbor, classmate, spouse, or friend in the same way. That is first by being with them. It’s the only way their brain will even be open to any verbal input you might have to offer.
Being With People
We do this imperfectly, but here’s a picture of what it’s like to be with people.
Listen. Every person has a story. They came to where they are from somewhere. Perhaps your coworker was financially cheated by someone with a fish on the back of their car. Your Bible study friend might have been through serious domestic violence. Watch for opportunities to hear more of people’s stories.
Ask Questions. As Steven Covey said, “Seek to understand before seeking to be understood.” Asking thoughtful sincere questions shows you’re interested in understanding them. You can start with something like, “That sounds hard. Would you tell me more about that?” or, “That’s something I’ve never experienced. What was that like?”
Be Vulnerable. Sharing something of yourself in a vulnerable way is generally attractive to people. You’re not doing it to get validation or sympathy; you’re letting your walls down. Being real means you’re a human, and humans generally feel safer with real humans.
Be Generous. Unsolicited advice is dangerous. But a presence, a listening ear, a sincere expression of gratitude, a moment of kindness–those are almost always welcome. If you have something the other person needs and it’s within your power to help, do it.
Stay Filled Up. When you are giving out emotionally in a challenging relational situation you need places where your soul regularly gets filled up. Make sure to stay connected with healthy growing followers of Jesus who are nourishing your own soul, and stay on your knees. Ask Jesus, “Who do You need me to be to this person right now?”
Loving People as Jesus Did
Our journey to learn to love people as Jesus did is really the whole point of our own Christian walk. Let the Holy Spirit keep changing you by being with Jesus, and others will be able to tell.
That’s how you make Jesus irresistible.
Your Turn: Who in your life who needs you to be a representative of Jesus to them? How can you make Jesus irresistible to them? How can you be present with them? Leave a comment below.
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- Someone who needs to know about Jesus must sense that you are FOR them before they will hear anything you have to say. Start by being WITH them. That’s how you make Jesus irresistible. Tweet that.
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