“Value people” – These two words have been in my head ever since I heard them spoken by John Maxwell at the Global Leadership Summit hosted by the Willow Creek Association. This really challenged me. Do I value people? Do I see people as Jesus did?
I do not want this lesson to be like so many, where I get excited when they are fresh, but I largely move on. I want to love people like Jesus loved people. I want to value people like Jesus valued people. And these two are largely the same. I want to give my life to it. And as a believer called to be a missionary in the political arena, I want to value all people, even those I disagree with.
And now I want to invite my fellow believers to join me in valuing people.
Throughout the Gospels, we hear the story of the Apostle Matthew, a tax collector whose original name was Levi. Jewish tax collectors were reviled. They were seen as traitors who often robbed their own people. Pharisees and rabbis would eschew these “scums of the earth.” But not Jesus. He went directly up to Levi and asked him to leave his life behind and follow Him. Levi followed and became Matthew. Why did Levi follow? Because Levi knew that Jesus valued him, even though he was a miserable tax collector. Jesus valued him, because Jesus valued people.
Jesus valued people when He fed the 5,000, while the apostles just wanted to send them away. Jesus valued people when He had compassion for them. Jesus valued people when He wept with Lazarus’ family. Jesus valued people when He healed them. Jesus valued people when He spoke to the woman at the well, defended the woman caught in adultery and the woman at His feet. Jesus valued people when He healed on the Sabbath. Jesus valued people when He stood up to the religious elite, who did not value people, but rather valued religious works and recognition. Jesus valued people when He took their place on the Cross.
Jesus has commanded us to give our lives to valuing people. In a way you can sum up the two greatest commandments in valuing people. Love the Lord your God above all else, and love your neighbor as yourself. Love God by obeying Him. Obey God by valuing people.
In the heat of the culture war and the great partisan divide, this can be so hard. We have been trained in our boot camps from the very beginning that those who disagree with us are our enemy and we must defeat them. “This is war for the heart of our nation. This is war for America. We must win for the sake of our country and future generations.” So we grab our weapons, and every two years we go to war. We too often say whatever needs to be said in order to ensure our side gets the upper hand in the war for power. We treat rules as negotiable, as long as they benefit our side.
We must do a better job of demonstrating that we value people, specifically in the political arena.
But we must do a better job of demonstrating that we value people, specifically in the political arena. We must have the mindset of Christ and see that there is value in every person’s life, even those who disagree with us. In our church walls we are doing this, but we struggle in the political arena.
When the Prophet Nathan rebuked King David, David was willing to listen and accepted the rebuke because he knew Nathan legitimately cared about him. He knew that Nathan loved him and valued him. If we are ever to truly speak into the culture, the culture must know that we care about them. That we genuinely love them and value their lives. And because we value them, we know these things that the Lord said are unrighteous will only harm them and lead to death. We don’t want that for people who we love and value. God doesn’t want it either. Jesus valued people, even as He spoke the truth.
Truly valuing a person begins with getting to know them at a personal level. Get beyond the politics, and get to know the person. Engage in conversation with them. Seek to understand who they are and why they believe what they believe. Listen. We may be surprised where their heart is coming from. As we listen, we will see many pour their hearts out to us. We will have real opportunities to speak into their lives. Why? Because they know that we genuinely care about them.
Ultimately, everything we do should be about valuing people. Every person we vote for must value people, or our message is compromised. Only then will these partisan walls begin to come down. Only then will we see people saved. When they see that we really value them, they will know that we are looking out for what is best for them. They will better hear the gospel and how God saved us and how He can also save them. Then we will be engaging the culture like Jesus did, valuing people.