I’ve learned a couple things so far in my life with Jesus. I’ve learned that Jesus pursues me in love, that he uses circumstances to shape me—even that he talks with me regularly (whether I’m listening or not!).
These lessons—and many more—have greatly impacted my spiritual life, and they have greatly affected the way I treat those around me. Ultimately, I’ve learned that my actions reveal a lot about what I believe about love.
A Report Card
I’m not a very argumentative guy (even though I’m a lawyer and win arguments for a living), so if you can’t get along with me, you can’t get along with anybody. But every once in a while there will be somebody who is a little testy who wants to engage me, and I have to think to myself, This is a report card of what I’ve learned about love. I may disagree with their approach and their attitude. I may even disagree with their opinions completely. But I can choose to treat them with love and respect. Most folks may be known for their opinions, but I want to be remembered for my love. So when I interact with people who aren’t like me, I keep saying to myself over and over again, What do I want to be remembered for?
In Luke 14, Jesus essentially asked, “What’s the benefit to having a dinner and inviting all these people who can do swell things for you? Go find people who can’t do anything for you.” What does this mean? For me, it means loving people who aren’t like me, whose life experiences aren’t like mine, whose understanding isn’t like mine. It means just finding them and being with them. Don’t have a debate or an argument with them. Get to know the name of their first puppy. What if we did what it takes to have authentic care for others and love them extravagantly?
If you love people the way that Jesus does—and I’m not there yet, but I’m aiming for it—it means being willing to live a life of constant interruptions. What if we quit being efficient in the way that we love people and instead chose to be present in the way that we love them?
Quitting to Make Room for Love
One of the things we’ll do if we want to love like Jesus is not just be in the presence of someone but actually be present with them. There is a big difference between geography—our physical location—and our full attention.
Jesus was a really busy guy, but he had time for everybody. The woman who pulled on his shirt, the guy in the sycamore tree—over and over as you’re reading the Gospels you’ll see these spur-of-the-moment encounters Jesus had with people. We see him living out the whole idea of Immanuel: “God with us.” Are we truly available to love and be present with others like Jesus was?
Unfortunately, when we overcommit our time and focus too much on stuff, our lives turn into the TV show Hoarders. We get so much stuff in our lives that we just can’t navigate it anymore. And when we’re busy maintaining all the stuff we have, it holds us back from becoming the new creation that Jesus spent so much time talking about.
To combat this, a few years ago I started “quitting” things once a week every Thursday. In my book, Love Does, I wrote about having gotten rid of a car after it was stolen. I didn’t replace it; I bought a skateboard instead. With choices like that, I’m not trying to make my life more convenient; I’m trying to make it more purposeful. It’s not that convenience is bad—that’s not our enemy. But, in my experience, convenience often ends up getting in the way of being a new creation.
Another thing I quit doing years ago was giving advice. For people in our faith communities, what if instead of trying to help others by giving them advice we helped them simply by loving them? Sometimes the way we love a person isn’t to give them advice; it’s actually to simply care about them.
There is something so strong about understanding what somebody might be going through and then not trying to relate to it by saying, “Oh, I know how you feel.” Because most of the time we don’t! Instead, when somebody calls me with something that’s going on in their life I say, “Man, that has never happened to me before. What are some of the things you’re learning about that?” There is a beautiful respect that comes with that, kind of like taking off your shoes before you walk through somebody else’s head. If you came over to my house and saw a pile of shoes, you’d probably take your shoes off. There’s a pile of shoes at everybody’s door of their minds. Take yours off.
In the Bible, Jesus didn’t say anything about leaving shoes at each other’s doors, but he did talk about people who walk humbly, people who fear God, and people who know how to be a friend. We don’t have to be the sheriff and straighten everybody out. What we need to do is love God and love people.
It was a lawyer, like me, who was trying to set up Jesus when he asked, “What’s the greatest commandment?” And Jesus replied, “Love God with all your heart and soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” So that’s it: Love the people around you. This challenges me to really consider, what if we quit being anonymous to our neighbors? What if we truly knew our neighbors? We can’t love God the way he wants us to love him if we don’t love the people around us, and we can’t love the people around us the way that God wants us to love them if we don’t love God.
The truth is I’ve spent my whole life avoiding the people Jesus spent his whole life engaging. So I decided to quit that too. I’ve decided to instead engage people who bother me—the people I’d normally want to avoid.
60 Seconds with Jesus
One thing that has helped me in my own spiritual life is that I’ve broken down this idea of following Jesus into 60-second increments. I ask myself, Could I obey Jesus for 60 seconds in the things that I do and say? And then for another 60 seconds, and another 60. Maybe there’s somebody who’s better at this and who could obey Jesus for a whole day—but I don’t think so. But when we face tough situations, temptations, or interactions, what if we just chunk it up and ask ourselves, Could I tolerate this person who is kind of difficult to be around for another 60 seconds?
That’s one critical thing I’ve changed in my life—I’ve tried to chunk it up. I only need to know today, tomorrow, and the next day. I just need to obey Jesus for the next 60 seconds. And then I can flip the hourglass over. I’ve got 60 seconds more in me, don’t I? When we think about obeying Jesus for the next 60 seconds, those become the most important 60 seconds.
Of course you aren’t going to find anything about 60 seconds with Jesus in the Bible, but you will find a lot of 60-second encounters between Jesus and the people he engaged. Like them, we can focus on each moment—with Jesus. Ask yourself: Can I obey Jesus for just 60 seconds more? It’s what we do that inevitably reveals our true faith. I think a lot of us have 60 seconds. And if we don’t, we’ve got at least 30 seconds in us.
These 60-second increments have helped me to focus less on myself and more on Jesus and those around me—those whom he sees as valuable not for what they do, but simply because they are valuable.
Let’s let people know that they’re not invited—they’re welcomed. They’re welcomed right to the feet of Jesus.
Bob Goff is the author of Love Does and is the founder of Restore International, a nonprofit fighting injustices committed against children in Uganda and India. He serves as the Honorary Consul for the Republic of Uganda to the United States and is an adjunct professor at Pepperdine Law School and Point Loma Nazarene University.
Copyright © 2016 by the author and Today’s Christian Woman