Anyone can love a crowd; loving individuals is another story

While a battle is raging one can see his enemy mowed down by the thousand, or the ten thousand, with great composure;  but after the battle, these scenes are distressing, and one is naturally disposed to do as much to alleviate the suffering of an enemy as a friend.  –Ulysses S. Grant, “Personal Memoirs”

“One death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.”  –Joseph Stalin

“I love mankind. It’s people I can’t stand.”  –Lucy, in “Peanuts”

Pastors, young ones in particular, have to conquer this challenge or forever pay a huge price.  It’s one thing to love a crowd, but another entirely to love that quarrelsome family, the cranky old curmudgeon, the gossip in the congregation, the unwashed homeless guy who wandered into your service, and the deacon who is dead-set on making you unemployed.

God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son….  That would say to us that His love was not an abstraction, not theoretical, and not just so much rhetoric.  Our Heavenly Father expressed His love by the supreme act of self-giving.

The radio preacher said into the night air waves, “Beloved, I love you.”  Everything inside me rebelled at that.  How can he love someone he doesn’t even know?  Someone he will never see or have any dealings with.  He loves the concept of people, if that.

Love is so easy to toss around, but so hard to live out.

The construction guy was angry at the little kid for leaving a handprint in the fresh cement.  The child said, “I thought you loved little kids.”  “I do love them,” the man said, “but in the abstract, not in the concrete.”

They asked a medic who had served in Viet Nam, “How do you handle all the death and dying on the battle field, without losing your sanity?”  He answered, “Never look a dying man in the eyes.”

I learned when sketching large groups of people that in one sense, there is a beauty in every person.  You see it when you focus on the individual instead of seeing the masses in front of you.  One by one by one, God loves us.  And if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.

Grant’s quote above is a wonderful reminder of the difference in seeing people as a mass and seeing them as the individuals they are.

We will not believe the pastor’s claim to love his people from the pulpit until we see it during the week in the nursing homes, the hospital rooms, and on the streets.

Beloved, let us love one another, not in word only but in deed and in truth.  That’s First John 3:18 and a whole lot of other places.

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