Loving “Those People”

by Jared Bayless

An Excerpt from his book, “Breadcrumbs.”

1 John 4:7-21

Sometimes it’s really hard to love people. I heard a quote from a TV show that says, “People aren’t good, they’re just idiot-coated idiots
with idiot filling.” We all agree people are difficult. We like to rant about “them.” We know “them” as the impossible, stubborn, never
listening jerks who only think of themselves and we must put up with them in this life. And for us Christians, it’s even more difficult because we are sup-
posed to love “them” and offering grace to “idiots” is one of the largest tasks delegated to us by Jesus before he left this earth. (Of course, I’m
paraphrasing how we seem to interpret it).

First John chapter four talks all about loving others. However, I couldn’t help noticing that we read it from the perspective like comrades of John. It’s the same high horse we get on with other Christians when talking about “them.” It’s like we read it with our arm around John’s neck and we say to him, “Hey buddy, thanks for the reminder. They do need Jesus amiright?” wink

But there’s one verse that made me pause. It’s verse 18. “Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear
of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.” (NLT) We are forgetting about another person in this—us. Me. You. We read this as instructions on how to love “them,” but what about us? What happens when we don’t love ourselves? What if we… are (gulp) “them?” What if our insecurities have made us not love ourselves? They cause us fear too, don’t they? They cause us to fear punishment or scenarios we’ve conjured up in our minds, right? “What if I let everyone down?” “If I mess up this relationship no one will love me.” “If I mess up at work, people will think I’m not quali-
fied and what if I get fired?” “What if I’m no longer relevant to society and I lose my value?” “What if I’m too far gone to be loved or used by
God?” “What if I screw up too many times and Jesus won’t forgive me?” “Why are people judging me?” “This isn’t my fault. It’s ‘their’ fault.”

Our insecurities bring fear and doubt. So, what do we do? We project our fears and insecurities onto others to mask them. John says the love of Jesus doesn’t have fear, in fact it expels fear. Our fear makes us worried about punishment and he says when we do this, we haven’t actually experienced God’s perfect love. Dang. Maybe we are “them” after all…

My insecurities keep me from the perfect love of Jesus. If I had expe- rienced it, it would drive out my fears and insecurities, not fuel them. If you’re like me, when I’m the closest to Jesus, I’m the most confident I ever am. But when he’s far from me, I question everything, and I begin worrying and I get in my own head,and it leads to self-loathing. Our insecurity is our puppet master, pulling those stupid strings. John says that if someone claims to love God but hates a fellow believer, they’re a liar. How can they hate people they can see, but love a God they can’t? When I’m insecure, I often don’t love myself or oth-
ers. Sometimes we can actually hate ourselves. How can I claim that I love God, but I hate myself in the same breath? Then I’m the liar,
aren’t I? So maybe it turns out John was talking to me, to us, after all. How can we claim to love God but bow to our insecurities? How can
we tell Jesus we love him, but secretly hate ourselves or at the least—doubt everything we do and doubt his plan for us? That isn’t perfect
love. That’s perfect fear. His love drives out insecurities, it doesn’t cause more. Maybe it’s time we press into that fear, press into that
doubt, trust a little more, step away from that mental cliff, and start asking some tough questions of ourselves. Am I really near to Jesus or do I just say that I am out of habit or my upbringing? Do I love fear and insecurity—because while an enemy,
it’s at least a known enemy—who welcomes us back quickly? Do I rest in the promises of God or the promises of worry? One drives out fear
and one floods in more. Do I love Jesus if I don’t love myself?

Maybe I need to take my arm off John’s neck and sit quietly in front of him and pay attention. Maybe sometimes we are “them” and we don’t even know it. Maybe I’m the one who needs grace and patience extended to me. Maybe I’m living in perfect fear instead of perfect love.

Jared Bayless

As we grow in our wisdom and journey down the path to our final destination to be with Jesus, we leave breadcrumbs for those who will come after us. When we’ve found the narrow road, we leave breadcrumbs for the generations who will follow behind us and get distracted by the world and all its charms as it tries to distract and detour them away from righteousness.

We leave breadcrumbs for those who wonder if they even know where the path is anymore. As believers, we guide each other home. We look for the breadcrumbs of generations past, of the leaders who gave their lives for the gospel. We see the breadcrumbs and take heart. Other paths lead to death, but we have found the only path that will lead us out.

These are my breadcrumbs for anyone who needs to find Jesus again or who needs reminded to never give up and keep walking, even when it feels like you can’t take another step.

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