If you want to care about the things Jesus cares about, you have to care about people.
That seems simple, but as you’re well aware, it’s really difficult to live that way. It’s difficult to care about others because people can be amazingly complex and unpredictable. We tend not to like things that are unpredictable. We’d much rather know that if we say or do certain things, then certain predictable responses will follow. Predetermined input. Predictable output.
I believe this is at the root of our fascination with machines: their predictability (at least in theory). If you go to a vending machine, deposit your coins and press the button for the candy bar, then you get a candy bar.
But people are not like machines, even though we often talk about people as if they are machines. I think we use machine language to talk about people because it can seem to reduce the complexity of our relationships with people.
Listen to some of the machine language we use that trains us this way:
• I need to recharge.
• That’s just how I’m wired.
• I need to process this.
• I feel like I’m always On.
• My brain is fried.
• I need to press pause on this.
Of course, we know what we mean when we speak like this, but might it reflect a distorted view of people? People aren’t machines, and when we treat them as if they are, we ultimately dehumanize them in our heads and fail to acknowledge the complexity of being made in the image of God.
The Lord Jesus knows human nature, and he knows the unpredictability and complexity of human relationships. When Jesus is questioned by the Pharisees about the most important command, Jesus replies, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”” (Matthew 22:36–39, ESV)
It is unremarkable that he cites the former, the priority of loving and living for God. Much ink has been spilled on that phrase. However, the second command is often overlooked! You have to have compassion for other people.
The form of Jesus’ reply seems to indicate that if you don’t do the latter, then you really don’t do the former either.
The difficult task of Christian love involves caring for people, fully aware of their unpredictability. And that’s exactly what Jesus did in giving himself up for us in his incarnation, suffering, and glory.
His perfect love was shown, not just in the objective fact of his sacrifice, but also in the relational care with which he bore our sins and raises us with himself. In other words, if you want to care about the things Jesus cares about, you have to care about people. If this is true, how can you reflect the kind of love for neighbor that follows the example of Jesus?
Garrett Walden is a pastor at Grace Heritage Church in Auburn, and he's a 6th grade teacher at Auburn Classical Academy. He's an Auburn University alum living in Opelika with his wife and three kids.