Our relational habits either bring us together or push us apart.
I have spent the last few weeks thinking about Jesus’ life, and discovered several habits that stood out to me; habits that seemed to change the trajectory of the relationship Jesus had with those people. The first I found was in Mark chapter one:
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” Mark 1:35-38
When Jesus was interrupted by His disciples, He didn’t get frustrated or ask for more time – He just stopped praying and moved on to join them! Another example is in Matthew 9: Jesus was being questioned about fasting, when a man just walks up to Him and kneels!
While he was saying this, a synagogue leader came and knelt before him and said, “My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.” Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples. Matthew 9:18-19
What was Jesus’ response to this interruption? He got up and went with the man. He embraced the interruption.
1. Embrace Interruptions
This is something I fall so short with in my life. I really struggle to embrace the interruption; I know it is melodramatic, but I often act like an interruption is the end of the world as I know it! The interruptions from a mother or father who calls, from children while we are watching the game, from random strangers who want to talk.
What convicted me about interruptions, though, was this: the people who needed Jesus the most were always comfortable with interrupting Him.
So let me ask you a question, “Are the people who need you the most comfortable with interrupting you?”
- Child: If your child needed you, would they feel comfortable interrupting you watching a football game or baseball game?
- Wife: If your wife needed you, would they feel comfortable stopping by your work to talk to you?
- Employee: If a coworker or employee needed you, would they feel comfortable to come to your office and interrupt you?
- Neighbor: If a neighbor needed your help, would they feel comfortable coming by your house, interrupting anything you might be doing?
Jesus always embraced the interruption.
2. Engage Those Who Disagree With You
Another amazing relational habit that Jesus had was that He embraced those who disagreed with Him. Often those are the people we avoid, but not Jesus. Who were the group of people who disagreed with Jesus the most?
The Pharisees! Even though He disagreed with them He often dined with them.
When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house… Luke 7:36
Jesus was invited to the Pharisees house. He had a choice – and He chose to go.
When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table. Luke 11:37
I love that it says, “He reclined at the table…” He was completely comfortable around people who disagreed with Him! Even though they were against Him, in each instance, Jesus engaged them.
This is hard to do. Many of us struggle with what sociologists call, “Confirmation Bias.” There is something innate in us that loves to have people around us who agree with us. That is why we may only hang around people who hold similar views and tastes! We tend to be put off by anything that makes us feel uncomfortable or insecure about our views.
It’s that preferential mode of behavior that leads to confirmation bias — the act of referencing only those perspectives that fuel our pre-existing views, while at the same time ignoring or dismissing opposing opinions — no matter how valid.
Who do Christians disengage with the most? People who disagree with us about salvation. People who hold a different religious view! These need our engagement more than anyone else.
- Neighbor: We need to be willing to go to the neighbor whose car is still in the driveway every Sunday when we leave to come to church.
- Co-Worker: We need to be willing to have that conversation with the co-worker who doesn’t believe as we do, and find out what their questions are.
- Family/Friend: We need to be willing to listen to the family member who might ridicule our faith.
I want to emphasize the listen part, because the point of engaging them isn’t to win the argument! Christians are really good at winning the arguments, but losing the person.
Jesus never wanted to lose people, so He engaged those who disagreed with Him.
3. Always Bring People With You
Another key habit Jesus displayed: He was never alone. The only moments Jesus was alone were when He prayed – and people interrupted Him half of the time then anyway! The habit that we ought to learn from Jesus is to always bring people with us. Sometimes that means that we literally need to bring people with us! Sometimes it is more figurative.
(Read more from Phil about how Jesus brought people along with Him: https://blog.vvcc.org/2015/04/12/always-bring-people-with-you/)
4. Relate To Others Out of Compassion
Check out Matthew 9:
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Matthew 9:36
Then in Matthew 15 the disciples wanted to send the people away, but Jesus had compassion on them, and decided to feed them instead:
Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.” Matthew 15:32
The scriptures tell us in Matthew 20 that Jesus had compassion for two blind men on the side of the road:
Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him. Matthew 20:34.
We have to make it a habit to continually relate to people out of compassion.
This is important because it is so easy to get callous towards people.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32
Compassion isn’t found in our first reaction – it is us acting in spite of our first reaction. Then, when we are willing to reach into the pain and hurt of people’s lives, we can find the compassion that God desires for us to have.
(Adapted from Phil Holland’s sermon, found here: http://vvcc.org/sermons)