At work, school, church . . . do you feel invisible? lonely? overlooked? perhaps at times even disregarded? not part of the “in” crowd? Are you tired of feeling like you missed a “how to” when you hear someone say, “JESUS IS ALL YOU NEED?”
Jesus is indeed what we need and whom we should emulate, and there’s another biblical truth that speaks directly to our human need for each other. Although God Himself walked and talked with Adam in the garden, He said:
“It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
—Genesis 2:18 (NIV)
Since our human feelings and our need for others have been validated by our Creator, and freewill is ours, what are we gonna do with the yukky feelings we foster when we’re among diverse groups that form sub-groups, cliques, where we feel like an ‘outtie’ instead of a coveted ‘innie?’
‘The professionals’ have shared with us that those who ‘belong’ to others who care about them live longer, are healthier, because their intertwined physiological and psychological systems are being consistently nurtured. Warm-n-fuzzy endorphins that GOD put in us light up and race through our bodies like fireflies whenever someone simply smiles at us, talks attentively with us, displays care and concern toward us. And those endorphins really ramps WAY up when we receive hugs—and give hugs.
Consequently, by reasoning, I’ve had to ask myself why I would perpetually use up my energy and efforts trying to belong to circles of which I don’t honestly feel welcomed. To do so only results in magnifying my initial feelings of loneliness and “less than” which produce bitterness and anger. Then it’s our human nature to blame those who seemingly (or truthfully) don’t want to engage with us for whatever reason. So why scramble for the crumbs that fall from the ‘in’ crowd’s table instead of taking a seat and inviting the ‘ins’ and the ‘outs’ to the wholly impartial table of Jesus’ agape love?
Agape is the Greek word for the “selfless love” Jesus demonstrated on earth and that God commands of us toward ALL others, even our enemies (Matthew 5:44). Oxford Dictionary’s example of agape love is quite interesting:
1.1 A communal meal in token of Christian fellowship, as held by early Christians in commemoration of the Last Supper.
Truth is, there are going to be cliques that leave us watching from the outside, at a distance, and there are going to be people who don’t like us for whatever reason. But truly, SO WHAT? We don’t have to allow these facts to define us or control our own actions, preventing us and those among us from being lit like fireflies with Christ’s fullness of JOY. We will never be able to depend on others to make positive changes within ourselves nor within our circumstances; changing our world is our own personal responsibility and an attitude and action of mature believers in Jesus Christ.
So what is truly going to satisfy us when we’re feeling invisible, “less-than,” discarded by others? Only extending Jesus’ agape love TO ALL, whether they receive it or not and whether they reciprocate or not. This is how we will help ourselves and others to get the ‘in’ crowd OUT.
As believers in Jesus Christ, God expects us to be ONE BODY whose many parts are indiscriminately loving, appreciating, caring for and encouraging every individual we encounter, tearing down walls and getting the ‘ins’ OUT. We each have a responsibility to AGAPE LOVE toward every person we encounter—even when just brushing by others on a busy city sidewalk. When was the last time you made a conscious, intentional effort to simply SMILE at every person you passed??
What’s going to ramp up everyone’s endorphins in the arena of group gatherings where sub-groups form? Each of us being cognizant, courageous, and proactive to extend Jesus’ agape love to every person we encounter.
Taking Jesus’ love is an action approach from 2 Corinthians 13, will look like this in group settings: at minimum, smiling and making eye-contact with those we pass. How much more will we fuel endorphin fireflies by extending a hand, a wave, a high-five, a pat on the arm, a hug . . . ? Through the intentional action of agape love we WILL, and THEY will, see transformation of a group, creating a fertile ground for leading and pointing to Jesus Christ, the author of true love and unity. It doesn’t begin with “them,” it begins with you and me on Sunday morning at church, Monday-Friday at work, Saturday at market and mall.
2 Corinthians 13 Agape Love in Action:
- Love is patient — others will eventually come around if I keep on loving them
- Love is kind — getting the freeze doesn’t give me consent from Jesus to freeze back
- Love does not envy — so what if they’re in a particular group and I’m not? ONE BODY with indiscriminating parts!
- Love does not boast — no word has to uttered from me for others to hear my boastful, “I belong.”
- Love is not proud — especially hard for those in leadership. Jesus washed his disciples feet.
- Love does not dishonor others — dishonoring another can be as simply (and not so subtle) as the way I look a person.
- Love is not self-seeking — Belonging to that group will give me status! (Not an agape love attitude.)
- Love is not easily angered — “She’s SUCH a snob; I’m not going to waste my time any longer trying to befriend her.” (Not an agape love attitude.)
- Love keeps no record of wrongs — “Every time I smile and try to befriend her, she’s cold.” This may be true, but agape love must prevail toward her because “love never fails.”)
- Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth — “She can go to h!#@ for all I care.” NO! I must remember what true “love is . . . .” She and I are equally loved by the Father, so I must joyfully commit to loving her, regardless. Maturity in Christ is the goal.
- Love always protects — I can’t wait for ‘someone else’ to love the unloved, the dismissed, the discarded, the wallflowers, the down-n-outers . . . Jesus has called us each to “LOVE ONE ANOTHER.”
- Love always trusts — you can’t go wrong with agape love, it “never fails” so you can trust taking “action in love.” You may not see an immediate positive response so trust God that “love never fails.”
- Love always hopes and always perseveres — “She’ll come around if I keep loving her. I’m going to keep smiling at her and greeting her warmly by name.” YES!
“If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?”
GET THE ‘IN’ CROWD OUT!
(Preaching to myself!)