There are so many times we need friends, times when life seems as though it would be unbearable without dear, dear friends. But, as you well know, in order to have close friends, we must be a friend ourselves. Solomon reminds us, “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24). But, in order to have those friends who stick closer than a brother, we need to be that kind of friend.
Let’s think about how to be a “people person,” how to be a friend. As we do so, we’ll explore the example Jesus left for us. “Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps” (l Pet. 2:21). The context in l Peter has to do with enduring persecution, not moral instruction. But, the principle does apply: Jesus left us an example that we should follow in his steps.
How was Jesus a “People Person?”
JESUS CARED FOR PEOPLE
Jesus cared for people who found themselves in a wide variety of situations. “When He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd” (Mt. 9:36). Jesus felt compassion for two blind men – “Jesus had compassion and touched their eyes. And immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed Him” (Mt. 20:34). When a leper asked Jesus to cleanse him, “Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I am willing; be cleansed'” (Mk. 1:41). When Jesus saw a widow in Nain mourning over her only son, “He had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep'” (Lk 7:13).
God calls upon his children to be compassionate, as well. “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). “As the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering” (Col. 3:12). “All of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous” (l Pet. 3:8).
We have so many opportunities to express compassion – visit the funeral home when our brethren experience loss, visit the hospital when our brethren are ill, call those you know need lifting, send a card to those you know are struggling, pray for those who hurt and who struggle.
Jesus demonstrated mercy and compassion because he loved. “Greater love has no one than this. than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (Jn. 15:13). “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us” (1 Jn. 3:16).
We, too, need to put the needs of others before our own; we need to love people. “Love one another fervently with a pure heart” (l Pet. 1:22). “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn. 13:35); love would distinguish Christ’s disciples from other groups. Are we loving our brethren? Are we compassionate?
JESUS FORGAVE PEOPLE
Throughout Jesus’ entire life, he demonstrated forgiveness to those who needed it. When an adulteress was brought before him and the mob wanted to stone her, Jesus told her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more” (Jn. 8:11). When a paralytic was brought before him, Jesus told him, “Son, your sins are forgiven you” (Mk. 2:5). About those who crucified him, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Lk. 23:34).
We need to forgive people as did Jesus. “Whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses” (Mk. l l:25). Jesus told the disciples, “If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him” (Lk. 17:4). “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32).
People are going to wrong us – someone will hurt our feelings, someone will lie about us, someone will lose his temper with us, someone will get the parking place we were waiting for, and so much more. Our duty is to forgive; notice that Mark 11 :25 says that we need to forgive others in order to receive forgiveness from God.
Will you express forgiveness or will you harbor bitterness and resentment?
JESUS MET PEOPLE’S PHYSICAL NEEDS
Jesus met people’s physical needs in a variety of ways. Jesus fed five thousand who were hungry (Mt. 14:13-21). He healed so many people. “Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people” (Mt. 4:23). “Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people” (Mt. 9:35). “They brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick” (Mt. 8: 16). Think of all the instances Jesus healed – he east out demons, healed the blind, lame, mute and dumb, and people with all kinds of diseases.
We cannot heal people of physical ailments, but we can help to meet physical needs. “I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). “As we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10). “Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share” (1 Tim. 6:18). “Do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Heb. 13:16). We have so many opportunities to be benevolent, to meet people’s physical needs – we can provide clothes for those whose homes have burned, we can provide meals for those who have been in the hospital, we can clean house for those who cannot do so themselves, we can contribute to orphan’s homes, to disaster relief. Will you help meet people’s physical needs?
JESUS MET PEOPLE’S SPIRITUAL NEEDS
Throughout his life, Jesus met people’s spiritual needs; he explained to people the things of God. In Matthew 5, Jesus saw the multitudes, and he went up on a mountain and taught them (Mt. 5:1). Once “great multitudes were gathered together to Him, so that He got into a boat” and he taught in parables (Mt. 13:2-3).
When people came to Jesus, he took the time to teach. He took the time to teach Nicodemus when he came to Jesus by night (Jn. 3). He took the time to teach the Samaritan woman (Jn. 4). When John the Baptist sent messengers to Jesus, he took the time to answer John’s questions (Mt. 11:1-6).
Jesus told people what they needed to hear, not necessarily what they wanted to hear. In Matthew 23, Jesus announced woes upon the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus told the Parable of the Good Samaritan to demonstrate the need to care for the less fortunate (Lk. 10:25-37), and remember, the Jews hated the Samaritans.
We, too, need to meet people’s spiritual needs by explaining the will of God. “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mk. 16:15). “Always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Pet. 3:15). Can we really consider ourselves a people person if we do not point people to God?
Jesus cared about people deeply, and he sought to meet their needs. Let us follow Jesus’ example, and seek to meet the needs of people. Do you need Jesus’ to meet your needs?