As I was prayerfully considering a topic for devotion this week, and because we have just celebrated Labor Day, I felt led to share something that related. The one phrase that kept coming to my mind found in the Scriptures is “Labor of Love.”
When the apostle Paul writes to the church at Thessalonica, he shares with them that he is remembering in prayer their “work of faith, and labor of love, and their patience of hope in the Lord Jesus Christ.” (KJV) In the phrase, “labor of love,” the apostle is speaking of work or ministry that is produced by love, their love for the Lord and their love for people. However, sometimes it becomes a “labor to love” when it comes to loving people. Some people are just hard to love.
In Charles Swindoll’s book, Living Beyond he has a chapter titled, “The Grind of Difficult People.” In that chapter he shares the cartoon scene created by Charles Schulz of Charlie Brown and Lucy engaged in a conversation. Lucy’s back is turned, her arms are folded and a look of disgust appears on her face. Charlie is pleading for her to be tolerant and understanding. With outreached arms he says, “Lucy, you must be loving. This world really needs love. You have to let yourself love to make this world a better place in which to live.” Lucy whirls around and screams (as Charlie does his famous back flip) “Look, blockhead---the world I love. It’s people I can’t stand.”
Warren Wiersbe shares in his book Be Joyful, that one day his daughter jumped off the school bus as it stopped in front of his house and slammed her way through the front door. She marched defiantly up the stairs into her room and again slammed the door. All the time she was muttering “People---people---people---PEOPLE!” He said he went to the door and asked softly, “May I come in?” “No!” Again he tried and again she replied more belligerently, “NO!” He asked, “Why can’t I come in?” Her answer: “Because you’re a people.”
I have often wondered why the Lord called me to preach and put me in the ministry because in growing up I was never an outgoing person. I had a hard time meeting people. In high school I had probably only two close friends, the others were distant school mates. As a teenager we lived on a farm in Tennessee and my older sisters used to say, “Frank, you don’t ever go to town.” I’m sure part of it was because I enjoyed every chance I had to hunt, and to fish in our lake. I was satisfied just being by myself. My wife has said to me more than once that if we owned 500 acres I would build a house right in the middle. How true.
However, we live in a world of people with a growing population. And, even more in our area, different nationalities. All of us have to live and work with people. We cannot isolate ourselves and still live to glorify Christ. So, we must learn the principles taught by Christ Jesus of how to work and relate to people.
When we look into the Scriptures, we often are confronted with instructions that are extremely difficult to do, and we just refuse to do them. It’s easy to say, “That’s OK for someone else but not for me.” Jesus taught many difficult things to do. Example: “You have heard people say, ‘Love your neighbors and hate your enemies,’ but I tell you to Love your enemies and pray for anyone who mistreats you.” Matt. 6:43 (CEV). When you are praying for someone, it is really hard to “hate” them. Try it.
Can you think of people you may have hurt or offended in some way? Are you bitter or holding grudges against people who have offended you? Instruction: Stop being bitter and angry and mad at others. Don’t yell at one another, or curse each other, or even be rude. Instead, be kind and merciful and forgive others, just as God forgave you because of Christ.” Eph. 4:31.32 (CEV)
Here is a difficult one: Live in harmony by showing love to each other . . . Don’t be jealous or proud, but consider others more important than yourself. Care about them as much as you care about yourself. Phil. 2:3,4 (CEV)
Each Sunday afternoon I have a Bible study at the Rendering Plant. Two weeks ago during the Bible study I asked the men, “Do you men know the Golden Rule?” They did. Probably everyone who reads this also knows it, “. . . Treat people the way you want to be treated . . .” you just find it hard to practice.
When you learn these truths and practice them, you learn that “people are not so bad” once you get to know them. Remember, “You are a people,” yourself.
- Is there anyone or any situation about which you harbor the slightest bitterness or resentment?
- Have you been critical or slanderous toward your co-workers, or do you fail to respect them?
- In what specific ways are you prepared to change your attitude or actions?