Loving People Where They're At
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12: 1-3, (bold italics added)
As a believer, I have often heard and used the phrase, “We must love people where they’re at.” And that is true. However, after a string of what can only be described as challenging interactions with several people who are struggling through different journeys, it has occurred to me that perhaps I throw that phrase around without really thinking about ALL that is required in meeting and loving people where they are. I’m also thinking I might be part of the problem. So, I’ve decided to “set up camp” at that very place for a while, and explore what IS required when I love someone where they’re at. What has it taken for others to love me where I’m at? I’ve been “camping” here for months. Why? Because loving someone where he/she is at is experiential. The only way to really do it is to take the wisdom God gives us and apply it authentically to real life. And I don’t always get it right. Sometimes I’m the “prickly pear” that’s hard to love and other times I’m the one trying to love.
We are all at different places in our journey. Some of us are seeking. Some of us are new in the faith journey. Some of us have been around for a while and some of us are seasoned travelers who have blown through the soles of several pairs of walking shoes.
No matter where we find ourselves or the people we’re trying to love, Jesus is the perfect example of meeting us where we’re at. I’ve been thinking about all the times in Scripture when He did that and about all the times in my own life when my Lord met me and loved me where I was at; and still does!
Here's just a few of the people Jesus pursued no matter where they were. (Bolded emphasis is mine.)
Jesus Meets ------> Jesus Commands
Peter and Andrew fishing ------> “Come follow me and I will send you out to fish for people.” (Matt 4:19)
James and John------> “Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.” (Matt 4:21b-22)
Matthew at the tax collector’s booth------>“Follow me” (Matt 9:9)
Peter in the boat------> “Come” (Matt 14:29)
Demon Possessed Man------> “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” (Mark 5:19)
Heals a Sick woman------> “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” (Mark 5:34)
Jesus heals ten lepers------> “Rise and go; your faith has healed you.” (Luke 17:19)
Zacchaeus the Tax Collector------> “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” (Luke 19:5)
The Samaritan woman at the well------> “He told her, ‘Go, call your husband and come back.’ ” (John 4:16) – This command led the woman to repent and believe.
The woman caught in adultery------> “And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I. Go and sin no more.’" (John 8:11)
When I look at Jesus as my example, there are some really important points that I notice. First, I must be willing to put down the comfort of where I am and enter into the discomfort of where the other is.
Second, I must be willing to love someone even when he/she doesn’t do what I want them to or think the way I think they should. I am not the Lord of their lives. But I know the One who is.
Third, I must provide them with the necessity of Truth along with the safety and security of Love; so that he/she can be encouraged to move beyond where they are.
And finally, I must be willing to love with boundaries and a great deal of patience in spite of the fact that values, behaviors, or attitudes don’t quickly change. Afterall, the changes that have occurred in my own life have not always happened instantly. (Please take note, we are not called to stay in relationships that are dangerous and/or abusive. In those situations, safety always comes first.)
In Scripture, Jesus invited many of those He met to either “come” or “go”. That means, “don’t stay”. And for us, it means that while we should not stay in the “stuck” of others, we need to love them as God’s created beings that they are. We need to see each other as God sees us. It is on these two points that I’ve been doing a lot of reflection of my own heart and seeking to honor the heart of my Savior because for me, sometimes, loving someone where he/she is at is a hard ask. It can be messy, noisy, and frustrating. Behaviors, decisions, words, and attitudes can just rub me the wrong way. And then I’m reminded that I have been and can still be THAT person. And if I don’t lean into God, MY behaviors, decisions, words, and attitudes in response to others can be just as disagreeable as the person with whom I’m interacting. You know what I’ve noticed about the people who love me in the “icky”? They give me grace, mercy, truth and love because they have a vested interest in my growth and well-being. They are safe for me. I might not like what they’re saying, but I can trust them.
Loving people where they’re at requires godly wisdom, commitment, and spiritual strength. It also requires mercy and grace. The only place I can get the power to do this is from my Father. Left to my own devices, my flesh will tire, my emotions will get the best of me, my frustration will kick in, and I will physically want to get as far away as possible so that I don’t have to deal with any of it. But the Truth is that I was called to be in relationship with others, to love them, and to let God live through me. Others have loved me (and still do) in the hard places and I need to do the same for those He places in my life. Because the reality is that I don’t have it all figured out. And also, God told me to.
Sometimes, I just need to go to a quiet place and spend time with my Father…just like Jesus did. Jesus is God in human form. His humanity knew that connection to the Father was necessary in order to do the Father’s will. Jesus’ time alone with the Father was always an intentional priority that was not influenced by the needs and demands of others.
“It was very early in the morning and still dark. Jesus got up and left the house. He went to a place where he could be alone. There he prayed.” (Mark 1:35).
“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:16)
By going off to a quiet place and spending time alone with the Lord, I can set aside my self-focus and, instead, focus on what the Father wants. When I don’t make that time a priority, the lens through which I look is clouded and my responses to others certainly don’t reflect God’s love. And it can happen in a flash. All I need is a busy stretch for a few days that causes me to short change my time with God and my lens clouds up pretty fast. Sometimes, five minutes may be all I have. But giving God 100% of the five minutes does a lot.
I am so thankful for the people who love me in the icky. Their grace, mercy, love, and wisdom have set me free from so many things. I learn so much from them about the love and patience of the Father. When we approach each other with that mindset, we change each other’s lives for the better.
Lord, sometimes I want to just isolate and not have to deal with the discomfort of broken people. But I’m broken too. You are so faithful in always meeting me where I’m at and beckoning me to move beyond that place. Help me to do the same for others in a way that honors You. Let my quietness and isolation not be borne out of avoidance but, rather, because I am spending time with You and learning how you want me to meet others where they are. Thank you for your faithfulness. Thank you for your love, grace, and mercy. Thank you, that as the Creator, Father, and Savior, You have adopted me into Your family and call me child and friend. In Jesus’ name, Amen
How have you been blessed by someone loving you where you’re at? What impact did it have on your life? What godly advice and/or Scripture would you give to someone else trying to do the same?
By Debbie Ericksen
I’m so glad that I registered for the March 2023 conference in Ocean Grove and plan to stay two nights!!😸
Words of wisdom, indeed, Debbie. Thanks for sharing our struggle to crucify the flesh, acknowledge our lingering sin, & be available to give & receive grace & mercy as He allows & as He enables as we prioritize time alone with our father God. We are a blessed people that God has given us a way…through Jesus… to become more like Him. Praise His holy name!!! 🙌. Evelyn Anderson
I so thoroughly enjoyed reading this post! It is so well written and really touched home on so many fronts. I greatly appreciate your time and sharing!
In regards to your question - How have you been blessed by someone loving you where you’re at? What impact did it have on your life? Interestingly, my ex husband has been there for me at one of the worst times in my life. His actions spoke volumes to many of my past mistakes of not being so patient or kind as I should have been. What a blessing it is to have someone love you at your worst.
Thank you again for your post!
Thank you so much for sharing your experience and your heart. I can definitely identify with having people love me at my worst. It has been a huge blessing in my life.
Thanks for sharing this Debbie, it is a really good perspective that we are ALL works in progress. I find that I have less patience, compassion, and empathy than I would like when "meeting others where they're at." It's so easy to forget that many times I am not too far removed from their situation. I have prayed many times for God to use my struggles so that I could help others...but when the time comes, I don't always see it as an opportunity from Him and I allow myself to get frustrated or discouraged based on their response.
This was a good reminder that I should be praying for God to lead my conversations, and not doing it in my own strength/wisdom (however little that is). Thank you! :)