I am not talking about jumping into the currents, and dying to save a drowning child I have never met. Not about showering the unkind with kindness. Not about you refusing to bad-mouth someone who spreads toxins about you. Not about doing unto others what you want done unto you. Not about loving others as you would love yourself.
“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you,” wrote C S Lewis. I’m not thinking of this huge demand either when I am thinking of loving as Jesus loves.
These ways of loving as Jesus loves, we should aspire toward. Less dramatic is a Jesus way that’s easily overlooked.
To attend to someone is not passive, as some think. “Pay attention”, we recall teachers repeating ad nauseum, and we think of just trying to stay awake, or these days not working our iPhones. “Attending worship” evokes the image of just being there bodily, with heart, mind and soul somewhere else. Yet being there is a powerful thing – our being is there, not drifting into the past, dreaming into the future.
Attend: “To stretch toward.” It is to stretch the eyes and ears toward something or someone, to give uncompromised, undivided consideration. To listen with the third ear, to see with soul eyes concerns in his heart. To be totally simpatico with his soul.
Jesus was always attending to the one person before Him, be that the Samaritan woman at the well in broad daylight, Lazarus dead, or Nicodemus in the still of the night. His ministry on earth was less about crowds than about attending to each person he met, even healing the bleeding woman when he noticed her, in the crowd, touching the hem of His garment. That person’s world was His world, all else receded. He stopped the disciples from pushing the children away. Jesus noticed too the poor widow’s mite and paused to draw attention to her. He made invisible people visible. Jesus’ encounter with each person was a sacred attending.
To love as Jesus loves is to attend, with eyes and ears to understand what the sister or brother is saying, what she hopes you hear when she hesitates to say it, what’s in his heart, what he does not himself yet know. To attend is to be in the zone with the person, the way Roger Federer eyes the tennis ball, blocking out everything else. It is to listen slow, whether the brother speaks fast or slow. Only then can we pray well, pray deep, for him. And to keep attending by praying on regularly, even daily, to inquire after him for updates upbeat or downbeat, to assure him you are praying for him, to chat up with him, to pray on the spot for him.
Constancy is the hallmark of attending. Nothing spectacular is needed, because the spectacular is left to God.
Attending is to wait for the person to respond, in his own time, in his own way, even when the responses disappoint you. Attending is unconditional, given freely and fully despite people failing to match the time, effort and money we spend on attending to them. For loving as Jesus loves is to remind ourselves that Jesus first loves us, before we love Him back, even when we hold back our love. His love does not depend on our loving Him.
To attend to a fellow believer is the essence of our church’s priesthood of all believers – we are to be priest to each other, under the tutelage of the Chief Priest Himself.
On attending to non-Christians, the Barna Group’s April 2013 study provides this operational definition: “Jesus-like actions included listening to others tell their story before witnessing, choosing to often spend time with non-Christians, and influencing multiple people to consider following Christ. Jesus-like attitudes included seeing God-given value in everyone and feeling compassion for those who do not know God.”
Attending to someone afflicted and depressed restores him, as aptly portrayed by Albert Schweitzer: “Sometimes our light goes out but is blown into flame by an encounter with another human being. Each of us owes the deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this inner light.”
Loving as Jesus loves is sacred attending – it validates the person in the eyes of God.
Attending to one another is a prized privilege, a sacred responsibility.
By Wong Chai Kee, Elder (YCKC Bulletin 18&19 May 2013)