Loving in the Footsteps of Christ
About the Guest
Why do I care so much about me? If we were honest, most of us would love to be great in a kingdom of our own making, says biblical counselor Ed Welch. Christ, however, has a better idea. Jesus experienced rejection continually, but that didn't keep him from loving and serving others. If we are to follow Christ's example then, we must learn to love other people more than we want to be loved by them.
Why do I care so much about me? If we were honest, most of us would love to be great in a kingdom of our own making, says biblical counselor Ed Welch. Christ, however, has a better idea.
Loving in the Footsteps of Christ
Bob: Which has a higher priority in your life today—that other people like you or that you love other people? Here is Ed Welch.
Ed: If we are really on what it means to be a human being and if this is the way Christ was—to be able to love more than we want to be loved by other people—is this freedom. We are going to love it! It’s not going to be, ultimately, a burden. It’s going to be hard, but it’s not going to be burdensome. It’s the way we were intended to be, and we will just plain love it.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, October 29th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll talk with Ed Welch today about how we can cultivate a heart that is more focused on loving others than on our own needs. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us.
At our church, one of the things we do, as a part of our worship service, is—we have a regular confession of sin that’s worked into the liturgy of what we do. I was leading the prayer of confession this past weekend. One of the things I said that I found myself repeating often, when I’m dealing with the issue of confession of sin, is: “What God says is true about us is more true than what we really believe about ourselves.”
You stop and think about it—what you believe about yourself—you pretty much take as the ultimate authority. I mean, who knows you better than you? Well, the answer is: “God knows you better than you, and what He says is true about you.” If it’s different than how you feel about you, guess who is right?—it’s God and not you.
That was kind of the lead into, the—talk about the fact that what God says is true about us is—that we are fearfully and wonderfully made; that we are made in His image; that we come with His blessing; but that we are also desperate—deceitful, sick in our hearts, and in need of redemption.
Dennis: Deeply fallen, yet profoundly loved—
Dennis: —and pursued by Almighty God.
We have an author—who has written a number of books—Dr. Ed Welch, who joins us again on FamilyLife Today. Ed, welcome back.
Ed: Thanks, Dennis.
Dennis: Ed’s a counselor. He is a papa to two daughters and a grandpa to seven grandchildren.
Bob: Is that—do they call you, “Grandpa”? Is that your name?
Ed: They call me Griffey—it’s a long story.
Ed: They call me Griffey.
Bob: Like Ken Griffey, Jr.—like that?
Ed: Yes. Of course, they are getting old enough now where they shorten it—so I’m Griff to most of them. [Laughter]
Dennis: Well, he’s written a book called What Do You Think of Me? Why Do I Care? And what Ed is doing in his book is—he is really answering three questions: “Who is God?” “Who am I?”and “How do I relate to other people?”—“Who are they?” and “How does this thing work?” because we were made to love.
Bob: And you’d agree with me that what God says is true about us—what He believes about us / what He thinks about us—is more significant than what we believe or think about ourselves; right?
Ed: Well, you got me thinking when you said that where—absolutely. I mean, that’s such an obvious thing to say; but I’m thinking, “That’s a harder one to do,” because when we feel something about ourselves strongly, it is hard to dislodge it—even if God, Himself, speaks.
Dennis: Most books come out of people’s struggles or lessons they’ve learned that they want to pass on to other people. Is this true of this book of you?
Ed: Dennis, I didn’t think you were going to get personally on me now. [Laughter]
Dennis: Do you struggle with what people think about you?
Ed: It is certainly true with me, and—
Dennis: You are a PhD. You’ve written—how many books are here? Let me count them—hold on.
Ed: Well, the good news is I—
Dennis: Half a dozen books?
Ed: I’ve asked my wife, recently—I said: “Sheri, this—being controlled by the opinions of other people—I can be controlled by your opinion”—
—I’m not talking—I’m talking about my wife now—“and I feel like I’m an infant in these things. Have you seen me grow?” Now, she might have just been being nice; but she said, “Yes. You’ve grown in these things.” I can’t say I’ve mastered it, but I’m growing in them. So, it is a very personal book.
And so, what has been most helpful for me, personally—a few different things. That question—“Why do I care so much about what other people think?”—for that question to move from sort of an academic question to a confession has been very important. “Why do I care so much about me?”—that’s really what I’m after. “Why is it that I want to be successful—great in just one thing? Why do I care so much about me?” So, that question, being turned into a confession has been very, very helpful for me, personally.
Bob: And when you ponder that question, what conclusions do you come to? Why do you care so much what other people think?
Ed: I would like to have my own little kingdom, where I am great in something that—and there, by the way, you see how the fact that we come to Christ is not a natural thing to do because we can only bring nothing. Nothing is a hard thing to bring to Jesus—I want to bring something. I want to think that I’m great in something. It’s simply my own pride. It’s low self-esteem, indeed. I can feel miserable about myself when I feel certain rejection; but it’s: “Scratch around, and sure enough, it’s my own pride. I want to be great.”
Dennis: Well, and Jesus says over in Mark, Chapter 10, when he was asked by His disciples: “How can I be great? How can I sit next to you when the Kingdom comes in, and I’m on the right hand of the throne here? I want to be in power. I want to be in control.” And Jesus says: “If you want to be great, you’ve got to become a servant. If you really want to excel, you’ve got to become”—He said—“the slave of all.” It’s the upside-down Kingdom.
Christ is constantly calling us to die to self and allow Him to fill us with His love. In fact, we were made to love. I want to read a passage that I thought about as I was reading your book.
It’s found in 1 John, Chapter 4. It just reminds us here—it says, “In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.” Then, in verse 19, it says, “We love because He first loved us.”
It’s really interesting—God made us with the capacity to love. Then, what He does is—He demonstrates that love through the cross of Christ and in the Scriptures—and offers redemption to those who will cry out to the Savior in faith.
Then, He begins the work of teaching us and training us how to love. It’s a lifetime journey.
Ed: So, here is love—He is the true human being teaching us what it truly means to be human. He walks through the world, and He experiences rejection almost every moment—from His own people, from His own disciples, certainly, from the leaders of the day. And nothing ever kept Him from that prominent question, “How do I love and serve these people now?” Nothing kept Him from that.
That’s what we see when we watch love move through the world—that in the face of rejection, His mission continues to be: “What does it mean to love in the name of my Father, on behalf of the Spirit, as the Triune God?” Now, what that means for us is—
—to love: to serve more than we want to be served / to love more than we want to be loved.
For me, personally, it works out in marriage—where: “Who is my wife?” It’s very clear—she is the object of my affection. She is the person I should love more than I love myself. I should die to self. Well, I know that, theoretically; but, in actual practice—when she doesn’t treat me the way I hope/want/think I deserve to be treated, all of a sudden, I can find that I reject her in turn. And there it is—there it is—my desire to be loved by my wife more than I have a desire to love my wife.
One of the great liberations in my own marriage is just simply to have that motto that points me to Christ and points me to my own mission. If my wife does not approve of me, or respect me, or accept me in the way that I would like to be accepted, or approved of, or loved, that doesn’t change my mission in any way. The question is the same: “How do I love her now?”
Maybe—I talk about how I was hurt by something she said. That might be the expression of love. Love can have infinite expressions. That is some of the power of the cross—that in the face of rejection, it can hurt—but it doesn’t take us from that question, “Okay, now, how do I love this particular person?”
Bob: As you were describing Jesus’ continual perspective of “… here to serve / …here to care for…” I thought, “How long would I have walked the walk He was walking before I would go: ‘Alright, enough with you guys. I’m going to go find somebody who has a little more appreciation for what I’m here for—somebody who cares a little bit more about what my contribution to this deal. I’m done.’”
And yet, here is the perfect Son of God, who says: “I’ll keep walking. I’ll keep serving. I’ll get the basin and the towel, and I’ll wash your feet again because that’s what I’m here to do.”
Ed: Now, the question this raises is: “Am I just going to be a doormat before other people if I follow this particular path?” Well, there, I think, the Scripture would respond two ways. One is—if we are really on what it means to be a human being—and if this was the way Christ was—to be able to love more than we want to be loved by other people—is this freedom. We are going to love it! It’s not going to be, ultimately, a burden. It’s going to be hard, but it’s not going to be burdensome. It’s the way we were intended to be, and we will just plain love it. That’s one thing we can say from Scripture.
The other is—is that love—like we mentioned before—love has all kinds of variations to it. Love can say: “That really hurt. What you just said—it really hurt me.” To be able to say that without vindictiveness or manipulation—but to say it because you care about your relationship with a person—those are the kinds of things that we can say.
So, please, don’t think for a moment that this is some being a doormat before other people.
This is—this is power! That’s what we are taking about. Loving in the footsteps of Christ is immense power and freedom.
Bob: I read a quote from your book—that you’d forgotten you’d put in your book—but I liked it. It says, “We’re supposed to live life as though every day is somebody else’s birthday.” That’s just a great picture. If I stopped and said: “Okay, on your birthday—it’s your special day—we’re going to do things that—not aren’t here to please you—but that are in your best interest—things that will honor you / things that will point to you. Instead, we are going to die to self and live for what is going to be a blessing to you today.”
If we were to live every day like that in our marriage / every day like that with our coworkers / every day like that with our kids, we’d be more like Jesus—number one—and we would quit caring so much what they think about us; wouldn’t we?
Ed: It’s interesting, Bob.
When you look at some of the secular literature out there these days—more and more, you are reading comments such as, “Sometimes, the best thing to do is just forget about ourselves and look for somebody else to love and to serve.” There is sort of the received wisdom that some people have after many, many years—not necessarily following Christ—but by seeing how people work best.
Ed: And we know the Author of that particular wisdom—it’s the way we were intended to be. So, I didn’t know I said the thing about the birthday; but it’s a very handy way of putting it together. When we are honoring another person above ourselves, we are affirming them and willing to take the second chair, at that time. And then, we would add, “We are going to love it,” because that’s the way Christ has lived before us—that’s the way it means to be human.
Dennis: And Ed, that all sounds nice and sweet, here in a radio studio. There are listeners, however, who, when they get your book, are going to turn to Chapter 18, where there is an equation.
All of a sudden, what you just said is going to seem, “I’m not so sure about what you are talking about, Ed, because you are talking about something that does sound tough and hard.”
Here is the equation: “Enemies”—what a great place to start, Ed, in the equation—“Enemies + Friends + Loved ones = Family.” Now, what do you mean by that? I mean, ultimately, you’re talking about quite an interesting hodge-podge of people there—enemies, friends, and loved ones.
Ed: It seems that when you go through the New Testament, there are three groups that come out. You have your immediate family and the people who are your people. You, also, have your neighbor—somebody who lives next to you—your lives intersect. Occasionally, you say, “Hi.” Well, Jesus obviously changes the whole idea of neighbor with the story of the Good Samaritan—we sacrifice ourself for someone / we treat them as if they are family.
Then, obviously, we all know something about enemies. And certainly, in the New Testament times, they knew something about enemies. When Christ comes and says that “while you were an enemy,” that’s when He died. All of a sudden, that puts enemy in a very different category. We treat enemies like family. That’s one of the radical teachings of the New Testament.
And Dennis, you are right. Is it hard? It is hard, but this is what we see in the person of Christ—He loves enemies, He loves neighbors, and He loves family. If this is what we see in the person of Christ, as we get the knack of it, we are going to love it. It’s going to be hard, but we’re going to thrive. We’re going to feel a certain richness in our soul.
I appreciate what you are saying—that there is nothing easy about this—but how can we aspire to loving all of those groups with a little tiny bit of a smile on our face?—because we recognize that we are right in the dead-center of God’s plan for us.
Bob: Do you think a 13-year-old has the emotional capacity to think rightly about: “Who is God?” “Who am I?” “Who is my neighbor?” “Who are others?” and to live a selfless, sacrificial life? Or is their immaturity—their lack of emotional development—such that they just need to grow out of that phase, and they’ll eventually grow up and be mature?
Ed: Well, they are going to grow up to be people like us, which means that we can be controlled by the opinions of other people. One of the things that happened—when the Spirit came, which was unprecedented—was even children, now, will have the Spirit and even they will know who the Lord is.
So, the question is not: “Do they have the Spirit?” Of course, they have the Spirit. The question is: “How can we communicate in a way that makes sense to them?” That’s where I think the idea of the birthday is a grand one—to be able to say to my granddaughter, who is petrified because she might not be wearing the right dress to school that day:
“Here is what you are going to do. You are going to go to school, and the children you see—it just so happens they are all having their birthday on that day. When it’s their birthday, you are thinking about them; and you are asking them about them and how their day has been going.”
So, it is: “How do we communicate effectively?” They certainly have the maturity because they have access to the Spirit to grow in these things—to treat another person as if it’s their birthday—yes, I like that.
Dennis: I like that too. And parents constantly need practical ways of passing these things on. Do you remember a time when you were raising your teenage daughters, and they had some enemies, and you were trying to teach them how to love their enemies?
Ed: I certainly do. And I can think of a few different situations. One situation was simply just evil rejection—evil words from another person. And in those times, you usually say less rather than more.
And we just said: “Honey, this is so hard. Let us pray for you that you would know that, not only do you have parents who love you, but you have a Father in heaven who is even with you in the midst of this. Somehow, Jesus knew something about rejection—you’re going to know something about Jesus. Let me pray for you.” There were other times where it was: “Alright, we’re in this one together because your Mom and I have some people that we don’t always like and ‘What does it mean to love people who are cruel to us?’ That’s what we are going to pray.”
And the nice thing about a prayer like that is you don’t have to give all the ins and outs of what that looks like. You are praying according to the will of God. This is something God wants to do. So, we can ask the next day, “Okay, how did we do in loving those people who are not so lovable in our lives?” And perhaps, there will be silence all around. Well, we keep praying. We keep praying until somebody has some great stories to tell about how they were able to show kindness to somebody who they loved.
That’s actually what happened with one of my daughters—where she began to move toward that person and simply showed kindness. In the case I’m thinking of right now, they actually became friends.
Dennis: And it’s interesting when John describes Jesus—it declared Him to be full of grace and truth. And grace, I think, in this situation, is kind of the embodiment of love. And I think there are times, as parents, when we are called to step in and protect our teenagers and speak the truth in love. I remember one of our daughters had a disparaging comment about her body from a boy. She was sharing it around the dinner table. I picked up the phone—
Bob: Spoke to the truth in love.
Dennis: —I spoke the truth in love. And the boy’s dad got on the phone with me. He said, “Why are you calling my son?” I said, “Well, let me just tell you what your son said.” And I said: “I’m not trying to beat him up, but I want him to know that my daughter is a beautiful creation.
“I’m her daddy and I’m called to protect her. Personally, I just don’t appreciate him talking to her like this.”
Ed: Dennis, if I could extend what you are saying just a little bit more. You weren’t simply protecting your daughter—you were loving your daughter—but you were also loving the person who said those comments. Instead of having him just live, having done those things and think it was okay, you intervened and allowed him to see the reality and the truth clearly—so you were loving him.
Dennis: I didn’t do it many times, but there are points when you sense that prompting of God that is calling you to speak the truth in love—to step out and be courageous—and to do that because God has called us to love and also embrace the truth.
And I just want to thank you, Ed, for writing this book. I think this is going to be a big help to a lot of parents and their teens. What I would encourage you to do, as a listener, is get a copy of this book. I think the parents ought to go through it first—kind of get the essence of what Ed is teaching here.
Then, give the book to your son or daughter and say, “Let’s go through these three questions: ‘Who is God?’ ‘Who am I?’ and ‘How do I relate to other people?’” Begin talking about the subject of people-pleasing, and living your life for others, and put it in proper perspective. Let them know: “You know what? It is a desire of us, as human beings, to live that way. We just can’t make it an idol.”
I’ll tell you—the teenage years are ruthless. I mean, they are tough years for teenagers to navigate around this one subject alone because it can spin them off into all kinds of ditches. And I just appreciate your heart for moms and dads and the next generation. And hope you’ll come back again and join us soon.
Ed: Dennis, as you were saying those things—I’ve talked to my children and my grandchildren about some of those issues—but you just gave me a vision. I’m thinking: “I want to get out of here—I want to get home—and I want to say: ‘Kids, here is what I’ve been thinking about today.
“’You know, here are these critical questions—“Who is God?” “Who am I?” “Who are other people?” “How do we treat them?”—and so much of our lives are wrapped up in those questions. Let’s talk about these questions again.’” So, thanks. I appreciate the vision you’ve given me. Now, I want to get off the radio; and I want to get home.
Dennis: Ed, you wrote the book! I’m just giving you back your own stuff. There is a reason why you are excited—it wasn’t because I said that.
Bob: And I think a lot of parents could have that same conversation, Ed, with their children or their grandchildren. It might help if they had a copy of your book since they didn’t write it. But we do have copies in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. The book is called What Do You Think of Me? Why Do I Care? You can order a copy from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com.
Go to the website, FamilyLifeToday.com. In the upper left-hand corner of the screen, you’ll see a link that says, “GO DEEPER.” If you click that link, it’ll take you right to where there is a screen shot of Ed’s book. You can order the book from us online.
Or you can call to order at 1-800-FL-TODAY. So, either way, call 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”’ or order, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com.
Now, a quick shout-out today to our friends at Hickory Ridge Community Church in Chesapeake, Virginia, where Calvin Corbitt is the pastor: “Happy Pastor Appreciation Month to Pastor Corbitt.” Recently, these guys were helping to promote the I Still Do™event that we had in Washington, DC, back a few weeks ago. We are fans of local churches that make marriage and family a significant priority. That’s not the only thing the church ought to be about, but marriage and family are pretty important. And I think good churches recognize that and see that they have a responsibility to try to promote godly marriages and families. A lot of these churches are partnering with us to make that happen with our resources like The Art of Marriage® events or the Stepping Up™ video curriculum.
And I mentioned all of this because I just wanted those folks, who support this ministry, to know that, at FamilyLife, we believe in the priority of the local church. In fact, when we talk to folks about supporting our ministry, we try to make sure that we remind them that their local church ought to be the first priority when it comes to financial giving. We don’t want them to take anything away from their giving to their local church in order to support FamilyLife Today.
But we do appreciate those of you, who are able to go above and beyond, and who make donations to support this ministry. We could not survive without them, and we are grateful for your partnership. In fact, we’d like to express our gratitude, this month, by sending you a resource that Barbara Rainey has developed to cultivate gratitude in your home. It’s a chalkboard that you can hang in the house that says, “In this home we give thanks for.” And there is a place to write what you are thankful for on the chalkboard. It’s our gift to you when you donate to support this ministry today.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click the link in the upper right-hand corner of the website, where it says, “I Care,” to make an online donation.
Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Make your donation over the phone. Or you can mail a donation and request the chalkboard. Send your donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR. And our zip code is 72223.
Now, tomorrow, we are going to talk about how to pick a spouse. Dan Chun is going to be here—all the way from Hawaii. He is going to share some thoughts on the subject with us. Hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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