In a day when many people go by @soandso as often as their given names, expressing themselves in quotable quips and two-dimensional images, it’s easy to forget that the individuals around us are real human beings with an equally real need for a Savior. However, if we hope to reach them with the gospel, we must learn to look beyond the role they play in our lives to the role God would have us play in theirs, seeing people as Jesus sees them and making appropriate personal connections whenever possible.
So, how do you do that?
1) Address people by name. Listen when people introduce themselves. Read name badges. Show people they matter by using their name in a respectful way. When no name is offered, use “Sir” or “Ma’am.”
2) Make eye contact. It is just as inappropriate to ignore someone as it is to stare at them. Make deliberate and appropriate eye contact when talking to people.
3) Ask and listen. Ask non-invasive questions, but don’t ask if you don’t want an answer. Cutting people off once you’ve asked them to open up is hurtful.
4) Avoid generalizations about people groups. Stereotypes breed prejudice. Do not contribute the words or actions of any individual to their gender, age, race, etc.
5) Forgive immediately. People who treat others poorly are wounded and hurting. Respond to negative behavior accordingly, forfeiting your “right” to an apology.
6) Speak encouragement and affirmation.
7) Pray for strangers. Pray for salvation. Pray that God would be glorified in all circumstances. Pray that God would use you to bless others.
Model these behaviors for your children even as you teach them about age and gender-appropriate relationships, personal boundaries, and the importance of using discernment in interpersonal relationships.
While some of these behaviors are common courtesies that come naturally when interacting with people we love and respect, others push us outside ourselves, and that’s good. To show compassion when there is no promise of reciprocation is to demonstrate the love of Jesus, the same love that rescued sinners like Zaccheus, the woman at the well, and Mary Magdelene, the same love that rescued you.