I am not a “people person”.
Most people who know me would disagree with that statement, but those who know me best know better. I was never one of the popular kids growing up. I had friends, but I never found the acceptance for which I longed. My sense of humor has helped me make friends easily, but I think it has also ensured that those friends are kept at arms length. This wasn’t by design, but it protected my fragile psyche from being hurt.
I know that a lot of you can identify with me. There are tons of believers who have faith in Jesus, not because of other Christians, but despite other Christians. We are the ones who didn’t allow hypocrisy in the Church to dissuade us from the reality of Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection, and the resulting salvation made available to us.
Let me be abundantly clear here. I am neither making excuses for myself nor pointing my finger at anyone else. I’m a hypocrite too. There have been times when I have put on my “game face”, leaving the impression that I have my Christian life all put together, the definition of hypocrisy.
Yet despite a reluctance to engage with others at a deeper-than-superficial level, and despite my desire to appear as though I have it all together, Jesus wants me to love people (Matthew 22:39), and to risk getting hurt to reach the lost with the Gospel and the saved with discipleship and growth (Matthew 28:19-20). And He wants the same from you!
In Philippians 2:3 Paul exports us that we should “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” As I read this verse, we are called to be people people. This means that we must learn to get past ourselves for the sake of others! Ouch!
This runs totally contrary to the world’s mantra, “be yourself.” Or does it?
God created us with our individual likes and dislikes. He created some of us shy and some of us outgoing. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with being shy or being outgoing. There is nothing wrong with being quiet or outspoken. But these personal characteristics are not to get in the way of the Great Commision; they are not to keep us from helping other believers grow in their faith.
Paul said, “To the weak I became weak that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22 ESV). Paul embraced who he was. He made peace with his past, and sanctified his future. The word sanctified means “set apart.” You can think of it as Mom’s good china and silverware. Those dishes are set apart for special occasions. As Christians we are set apart for God’s purposes; when we gave him our hearts, we gave him our lives. “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:21 ESV emphasis mine).
Ready for every good work. Ready. Wow! God has put within us the ability to be true to who we are, while at the same time willingly setting aside our personal preferences in order to do the works that the “master of the house” wants us to do. I am not naturally a people person. But from time to time God asks of me that I live as though I am a people person. Sometimes I have to set aside my solitary preferences so that I can speak into the lives of others. God might not send us all to Africa, but he may send us next door, or downtown, or to any number of places where people need a caring and attentive person to talk to.
He’s made it clear to me. What is He speaking to your heart?