The personal touch
by Glen Doss, Major –
When the Spirit of Jesus convicts me of the sin of hurting another person, and I reply, “What must I do, Lord?” the answer comes loud and clear from God’s Word: “Make amends. This person you have hurt is not a zero.” Perhaps I flinch at the direction; but it will always be the Lord’s response.
As Jesus’ body today, the Church exhibits Christ to the world. Just as Christ arose physically from the dead that first Resurrection Sunday, the Church was born at Pentecost. Jesus teaches: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8 NIV).
The apostle Paul calls the primary ingredient of this witness “the most excellent way” (1 Cor. 12:31). “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels and have not love,” he adds, “I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor. 13:1 NIV).
Here is the nub: it is very crucial HOW this love is exhibited. A secular humanist until I accepted Christ 24 years ago as my Lord and Savior, I am extremely sensitive to the signs of the humanist mindset in the Church. One of the problems with humanists is that they tend to “love” humanity as a whole—Humanity with a capital “H”, Humanity as an idea—but forget about humanity as an individual, a person. Jesus shows us that Christianity is to be exactly the opposite: the genuine Christian loves the individual—just as God loves you and me as individuals.
God’s greatest commandments, Jesus informs us, are to love God and our neighbor (Matt. 22:37-39). Jesus shows that I should love the other person as an equal—as another creature, a created being, like myself. The ground is level at the foot of the cross. If I do not see myself as an equal to all others, then unconsciously I have set myself up as my god and have begun playing God in my own life. This is a natural human tendency against which we must always be on guard. Only a desire to be superior would make me reluctant to apologize to someone I have offended.
Just as I must not love God in abstraction, but with all my heart and soul and mind, I must not love my fellowman in abstraction, either; rather, I love the individual who stands before me in a person-to-person relationship. This person must never be faceless to me or I am denying everything I say I believe. We can talk until we are blue in the face, but if we, as individuals, act on less than a PERSONAL relationship with other people, where is the demonstration that God is personal? Since it is a personal relationship with Jesus that defines salvation, then showing this reality in my personal relationships with others is my mission, my calling, not just to say words about it. We TRULY love our neighbor as ourselves, not just PRETEND it is so.
And there is to be no distinction between Christian and non-Christian, or between differing social statuses, races, religions, or nationalities. Jesus made this very plain in his telling of the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:27-37). Every person is my neighbor and is to be treated in a proper human-to-human relationship. Every time we act in an impersonal way toward another person we deny the central teaching of the Word of God—that there is a personal God who created man in his own image.
If we are honest with ourselves, we will admit we are tempted to go counter to this teaching in our business dealings and our professional relationships. And we do it every time we act condescendingly toward another person. Some of us unknowingly come across this way when interacting with recovering addicts and alcoholics in our institutions or inmates in our prison systems. And these men and women ALWAYS know when they are being treated impersonally or being patronized. Sometimes this deters them from considering our corps as their home churches. Many have told me so.
I must add: as Christians, we do not have to cast away every human relationship, including the relationship of marriage, or the relationships within the Church, just because they prove to be imperfect. When two Christians find their relationship has hit a wall, they can come hand-in-hand and bring their failures to the cross of Christ. Since, as Christians, we lean on God—not on our own understanding or one another, but on God—for our strength and support, we can get up again and go on. Think what this means in the area of human relationships, in marriage, in the Church, the parent-child relationships, the employer-employee relationships. We may hit a wall—but our relationships can continue to thrive.