For the longest time I've pondered a question about the incredible way Jesus had with people--how did He do it? What was His secret?
Obviously, He healed them. When you're hurting, sick, and desperate, that would drive you to someone with a reputation for 100% success, whether or not you understood His mission or message.
And He delivered them. He tackled the root causes of devilish oppression, spoke the word of authority and command, and people were set free, totally and permanently. Fear and torment melted in His presence, destructions were halted cold, and hope sprang to life in the wake of instant restorations. Yes, I'd join the crowd, too, running.
I think the most compelling quality we'd all say He had, though, was His love. Somehow, they knew He loved them. Many's the time I've tried to picture the scene: His smiles and glad welcome, an open-armed approachableness that made each one in the crowd feel they were special, that it was them He loved. He must have exuded patience and an unflappable peace that made them feel He had all the time in the world to meet every need.
I've known a few people who love like that. I'm drawn to them, I want to be with them, because--yes, I'll admit to the selfishness of this--they love me. They welcome me with unfeigned approachableness, I don't feel like I'm wasting their time with my stuff (even if I am). I just know that they care. I want to be like that.
But this morning in church, on a teaching about love, I saw another profound aspect that I think answers my question about Jesus. Yes, it was Love that drew people. But a fundamental expression of that Love was no condemnation. "For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him." (Jn. 3:17)
To condemn means to pronounce guilty, to declare wrong, to be weighed in the balances and found wanting. Yes, I was guilty and wrong and lost in that, but Jesus, in giving me the gift of no condemnation, showed me what Love really looks like. No longer are my failures and shortcomings the issue--it's that He wants me. He loves me. He has time for me. He wants to give me everything He has, to meet every need.
The hang-up seems to be really believing that. I still don't let myself off the hook that easily; I feel guilty over things real and imagined, I blame myself for whatever, and can just hardly accept that God (or a person) isn't holding up a measuring rod over everything I do. And I know I have an enemy whose purpose is to bring accusation against me in any and every way. BUT...when I can operate from a position of God's total acceptance and love, I can turn and love others like Jesus did.
What does that look like? Not condemning...not being judgmental (my way or no way), not being critical (how far below my exacting standards do they fall?), not blaming (then I don't have to change--it's their fault). It means I can offer forgiveness with no strings attached, no manipulation or retaliation in mind, no effort to control, because I have no agenda other than their best interests and their highest good.
Seems impossible to just live like that, every day, in every encounter. But I can see that this is what will win the world, one person at a time. Just letting them know, 'I hold nothing against you, I don't blame you and neither does God.' That's how they'll see the heart of the Father and be free to come running to Him.