The first real Christian meeting I attended was at a retreat center in the middle of rural nowhere.
I came in, a rock n’ roller, black tee-shirt, long hair and beard, and was greeted by an older gent with slicked down short hair, black horn rimmed glasses, and plaid shirt, extending a calloused farmer hand saying, “Praise the Lord, Brother!”
“Uhhhhh, yeah, Praise the Lord,” I mumbled weakly, withdrawing my hand. Not the kind of man I’d choose to hang around with. Little did I know, but not long after that Jesus would bring all kinds of different people into my life – and command me to love them.
God joins unlikely people together in his family. Before Jesus saved me I had a select group of friends, whom I deemed to be as cool as I thought I was. But Jesus builds unlikely stones together in his beautiful house, and gives them his own love for each other. Paul describes this love in his letter to the Philippians:
For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus (PHP 1.8).
Amazing. First of all, Christ feels not merely dutiful love, but warm affection for every believer. I used to think Jesus just endured me, much like I have to endure a cold. But the Bible says he’s filled with fond affection for me and all his people.
If Christ feels this way about his people, then so should I. I want to be like Paul, having Christ’s affection for EVERY saint, not just those like me.
The Lord puts odd fellows together. He must get a real laugh from the funny combinations, but his prime motive is his glory. It displays his glory when Beatle fans and Gaither followers, accountants and crane operators, home, public and Christian schoolers love one another.
It glorifies God because this kind of affection can only come from him – it’s Christ’s own affection. It’s Jesus loving through us. It’s supernatural. I regularly ask Jesus to fill me with his own affection for my brothers and sisters, because I can’t do it on my own. And I’ve seen him do this for me increasingly.
Before Christ saved me, I sought to surround myself with people like myself – that’s easy to do, but pretty boring when you think about it. I’m so grateful Jesus has built me together with people very different from me, then given me his own affection for them. How rich I am in Christ.
Ask Jesus to give you his own affection for his people. Especially those who are not like you. Those who may be harder to love. Those who require more patience. Those who see things differently than you do. If we ask he’ll give it to us, because it’s his will that we love one another for his glory.