A couple weeks ago I attended an Encounter conference at Franciscan University. One of the break out sessions was on community. Ennie Hickman gave the talk. There were a lot of questions about how to handle situations where people aren’t acting like they should and Ennie repeatedly gave the answer that no one wanted, we have to treat people like Christ would. Ennie reminded us that Christ is merciful. He hung out with sinners every day and he didn’t go into those gatherings condemning those people. He just loved them. And that love brought them to repentance and conversion. Jesus told us to forgive seven times seventy times, not three strikes and your out, not until it’s really been too many times. He wants us to forgive people period.
Ennie’s talk was really challenging for me to hear. There are so many people in my life who I had been feeling like I needed to call out, to tell them what they were doing wrong or people who just annoy me who I don’t want to be around, but I was reminded that I’m called to love them not judge or condemn them. I don’t have the power to judge, that’s Christ’s job. So instead of judging I’m really trying to love. And more than that, I’ve realized that I’m called to love EVERYONE. Like every single person I encounter, ever in my life, I am called to love them, just as they are.
This realization has changed how I look at my day to day life. Currently, I’m working at Old Navy part time. Which for awhile just made me really embarrassed and sad. But after spending some time really reflecting on this call to love, I feel like I have a new ministry. I am called to love all of my coworkers and the customers of Old Navy with Christ’s love. It’s a challenge, but it’s one that I’m excited to accept. Just in the last week of trying to implement this change I’ve noticed a complete reversal of how I think of work and how I feel driving to and from the store. I have so much more joy.
My work has become a place where I can help people encounter Christ. I don’t walk around asking people if they know the Lord. I don’t quote Bible verses or call people out on their lifestyles, instead I just love them. I love them not for what they can do for me, not for what they do for the company, I love them for who they are. Most of my coworkers do know that I’m Catholic and some of them have conversations with me about that, but mostly we just mess around and do our job. But this change in my perspective has transformed my day to day. I look forward to just being present to people. It’s crazy how the day to day can change so drastically just by trying to love people.
I’m not saying I’m perfect at it, I’ll never be perfect at it, I have to constantly remind myself not to be judgmental, but by the grace of God I am able to wake up each day with a desire to love the people in my life and that is making all the difference. I pray that the Lord is able to use that love to transform people’s hearts and help them to encounter Him, but in the mean time I’m just gonna focus on loving the person in front of me.