Regrets… I believe most of us live life trying to avoid them. Many times it’s our desire to live with no regrets that pushes us beyond our limitations. We think, “If I don’t _______, I may regret it!” So we do ministry, or speak, lead, plant, or step out of our comfort zone somehow in order to avoid those terrible regrets.
There’s something that feels worse than having a regret, though. Being ashamed of one…
As a 25-year-old new Senior Pastor’s wife, I was preparing to lead our first women’s retreat. A few other churches were invited, including the one where we’d previously been on staff as youth/associate pastors. Looking over the list of women coming to the retreat, I saw her name. I wanted so badly to be imagining things, but the reality of her being on the list sent me into a downward spiral.
The memories rushed me back to a time when we were friends and I’d openhandedly ministered to and loved her—TRULY loved her! Those same memories turned into a pain that stabbed me in the back like a knife. It was quickly revealed that our friendship was one-sided, and the only things she wanted from me were my influence and relationships. I was simply her stepping-stone. I had never felt so ridiculously naïve!
I began recounting all the nice things I’d done for her, which turned into me arguing with her in the mirror. The same mirror in which I barely recognized myself as I plotted and rehearsed the coldness I’d show her when we saw each other. I thought things like, “How dare she plan to just prance in and act like we’re great friends! How will I even minister with Judas in the room!?” I regretted loving and ministering to this woman I thought was my friend.
Then, God asked me a question: “Did you do it for her or did you do it for ME?” and I was immediately ashamed.
Here’s the revelation that changed my life—If we love people as unto the Lord, we will NEVER regret loving people!
The people we keep at arm’s length or push away can’t hurt us, but we don’t truly love them at a distance. It’s the people we pull close, that we pour into, that we love like Jesus loves, that are able to hurt us. Strangers don’t betray us, loved ones do, but we can’t let that stop us from loving His people.
Jesus knew what Judas would do, but He loved him anyway.
“Feed my sheep” was said three times by Jesus to Peter. “If you love me… show love to my sheep.” Jesus undoubtedly knew that it was easy to become jaded, closed off and bitter in the sheep-feeding business! The simple truth is that some sheep bite, but they’re still His sheep.
15 years into our Celebration Church plant, I understand THIS: Not everyone that you think will grow old with you, will actually grow old with you! And Jesus doesn’t say they will. He doesn’t qualify whom we should feed and who is worthy of our time, energy and love. Many came and went, even in His ministry.
I’m forever challenged to grow old loving Jesus and His sheep for as long as He gives me the privilege to feed them. I don’t own them, I steward them. I feed them, as unto the Lord.
Let’s never stop loving people, because whatever we do to the least of these, we do unto the Lord!