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by Lynn Anderson


    Last week we introduced the plan to learn how to treat people more appropriately. And that plan is really simple. We’re going to let Jesus will be our coach. We will track down the way Jesus treated people, and we’ll learn the art of relationship from the Master. And no one marks the way more clearly than the apostle John.

    Why John?

    Why John? Several reasons. First, no one in Scripture walked more intimately with Jesus. In some special way, John was “that disciple Jesus loved.” And no New Testament disciple walked with Jesus longer than had the aged apostle John by the time this Gospel was written.

    Second, John wrote his gospel several decades after the other gospels were written. By the time he wrote it, the church had already begun to form some of the crust of institutionalism. When movements begin, they are flexible and fluid; then they gradually form structure and tradition, which serve to stabilize them. But this structure and tradition also tend to immobilize and desensitize them.

    And, worst of all, institutionalized religion tends to become less people-sensitive. In fact, religious institutions can end up crushing people, even those people who are most Christian. This kind of institutional immobility was already slowing the Christian movement before John died. Some bishops were becoming dictatorial. Organizational structures were growing more complex. Mini-denominations were taking shape. Policies, creeds, and doctrinal statements loomed on the horizon.

    The Christ-follower movement was losing people-sensitivity, too. And in the midst of all this sat sensitive Saint John, now nearly a century old. Perhaps John’s hair shone silver and his health was dwindling to frail. All his fellow apostles had long since gone on. Peter, James, and Andrew had been called home. No doubt he felt alone as he faced the changing times.

    The aged apostle had witnessed the launching of this movement. Now he saw it languishing.

    As John watched the Christian movement institutionalize and lose freshness and people-focus, his mind may have wandered back to the way things were in the beginning. So spontaneous. So flexible. So full of energy, so relationship-oriented and people-sensitive. Why, the very core of Jesus’ work had been a three-year relationship with twelve close friends.

    Surely John remembered the Messiah at the wedding who solved the wine problem and got the host off the hook. John thought of the blind beggar whom no one noticed except Jesus. He pondered Jesus’ tender teaching of the Samaritan woman and his tough, direct encounter with Nicodemus. He saw Jesus’ tears as he embraced Mary and Martha, consoling them in the loss of their brother Lazarus.

    Third, the old apostle also knew that just as institutions become desensitized, so a crust could form around the heart of an individual believer. Relationships can give way to religion, and a Christian can lose his or her “first love.”

    One can almost hear John thinking aloud. “Jesus was so tender with people, yet so tough with issues. Jesus and people. That is it!” And John remembered.

    So John wrote it down. “These [things] are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31) In other words, “I want to build your faith!” In the Gospel of John, “faith” is always a verb; it is never a noun. Faith is about how you live, not just about what you think is true. Mostly, “verb-faith” in Jesus is about touching and building people the way Jesus touched them. So John packaged his high-powered, faith-building theology in human-interest stories. Stories about people. Stories about relationships. Ordinary encounter after ordinary encounter. Each vignette carefully selected to weave a tapestry of ageless wisdom. Heaven reaching down to humanity, Immanuel among earthlings, the Christ amidst the commoners, Jesus touching people.

    With graphic detail and penetrating insight, John takes us on a storybook journey through Jesus’ encounters with human beings. All kinds of people:

  • religious people like Nicodemus
  •    

  • self-righteous people like some Pharisees
  •    

  • abandoned people like the woman at the well
  •    

  • frightened people like the woman caught in adultery
  •    

  • despairing people like Mary and Martha at the tomb of Lazarus
  •    

  • lonely people like the handicapped man by the pool
  •    

  • mistreated people like the blind beggar by the road

    And the common thread that strings all these souls together is their basic humanity. They had flesh and bones, problems and joys, friends and enemies — just like you and me!

You’ll see their faces in the pages of John’s writings.
    They could have been your neighbors or your relatives. That cranky old coot who lives around the corner? He is in John’s story. That group of church officials who can’t see God? Jesus ran into a few of those. Your mother-in-law? The pregnant teenager? The grief-stricken widow? You’ll see their faces in the pages of John’s writings. And what’s more, Jesus is one of them; yet in him you’ll see God act out his own commandment: You’ll watch him love them as he loved himself, and you’ll want to love like that!

    You will also observe divine people skills, and you can learn them. You will see that God does his most awesome work through relationships. Hopefully, with a touch from beyond, your own relationships will be changed!

    At a baptismal service, one of our friends was explaining the significance of what she was witnessing to her three-year-old daughter. “See that lady?” the mother asked. “Jesus is about to wash away her sins.”

    The little girl sat up a bit straighter so she could see better and said with excitement, “Good. I’ve been wanting to see Jesus.”

    Me, too, little one. Me, too!

    Maybe you have too. Maybe you have heard Jesus’ words about loving your neighbor as yourself and have thought, ‘I’d like to see what he would do with that in my world’ Well, now is your chance. Open your heart a bit, and let John teach you how Jesus touched people.

    And as you begin your journey through the life of Jesus, pause a moment and ask God: “Dear heavenly Father, how do I learn to treat people the way you want me to? How do I treat those around me like Jesus did?” When you do, you will hear Jesus whisper to you through John’s Gospel the words of invitation: "Come and see!” (John 1:38-39)


For thought and discussion:

Why is the Gospel of John such a good place to begin to learn about how Jesus treated people?
 

How can traditions and forms take the place of a people-focus in our church lives and in our individual lives?
 

What’s the big advantage for us in the way John tells the story of Jesus, with all these conversations with people?
 

Skim through the Gospel of John in about 30 minutes and make a list of all the people and groups you meet.
 

    Which one is most like you?
 

    How would Jesus treat you?
 

        What would he say?
 

        What would he do?
 

    When we treat others as Jesus did, why and how do we get to see Jesus?
 

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The Jesus Touch The Jesus Touch
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