Pros and cons of loving people:
One of the bits of advice I heard when I was considering pastoral ministry was, “Love the people.”
That sounds common sensical and is very true. It is also very difficult.
It’s easy to love the idea of people. It’s easy to love people when you assume they will be so grateful for your life-changing sermons and advice that saved their marriage and helped them raise great kids.
But when people call you during supper to warn you they will leave your church “unless” you bow to their demands, love gets tougher. When people yell out disagreements at you during your sermon and invite people to their house afterward to inform them of how dumb the pastor is, love is hard. When old timers from the church invite you over for dinner, only to find out it’s an ambush so they can stand over you and lecture you about how you are ruining “their church,” love gets hard. When you are accused of being legalistic the same week someone leaves your church because you don’t enforce enough rules on the people, love gets confusing along with hard.
Love means service. You humbly do what you can for people. Usually you serve with the expectation that something spiritual will happen, that edification and growth will occur. I will gladly serve to bring about spiritual growth in Christ. No problem.
The problem is that after 15 years of serving a person you will see little in the way of growth and then those people will leave your church without a word. Wait, what was all that loving service for? I don’t know; other than I served because Jesus served me. It’s the right thing to do whether there is any temporal reward for it or not.
Paul says we should not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we will reap if we faint not. I increasingly believe that the “due season” is eternity. Most of the reward for service will come then. “No good deed will go unpunished” seems to be the rule for this life. I do believe there will be reward in the next life for every good deed we did in the name of Jesus Christ. I believe that because the Bible teaches that and the Gospel does that. That’s why you love.
When we love others and they take advantage of us, misuse us, even accuse us of doing wrong, this helps us see what it is like to be the Suffering Messiah, the Man of Sorrows acquainted with grief. Loving others for no payback is the essence of Christlikeness.
In all honesty, my loving service for others is quite pathetic. I get nervous just presuming to associate my loving service with Christ’s; my rejections with His. Mine are quite tame and pathetic in comparison. Yet at the same time, they have helped me understand and appreciate Christ’s love for me.
Loving people is hard. Loving enemies is hard. But what thank is there in loving people who love you? None. Love for those who despitefully use you is God-like love.
Love people. Serve them. Don’t give up. God is watching and promises to reward us for our service. More than likely that reward is reserved in heaven and will not be granted in this life. More than likely your service will just hurt and suck the life out of you. But we die daily. We are already dead with Christ. So wash the feet of Judas on your way to death.
The great reward for doing so will be growth in Christlikeness and in your love for Him who gave His life for you.
There is no greater service than that.
Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world’s good, and sees his brother have need, and shuts up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwells the love of God in him?
–1 John 3:16-17