Love Has a Name: Learning to Love the Different, the Difficult, and Everyone Else
:Some people make it really hard to love them. But we can learn how to love better--often from those we would never expect to teach us. This hopeful guide offers a practical approach to loving like Jesus does. ...
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:Some people make it really hard to love them. But we can learn how to love better--often from those we would never expect to teach us. This hopeful guide offers a practical approach to loving like Jesus does.
Loving people is hard. Especially when it involves the difficult people in our lives and those different from us. Adam Weber knows firsthand that whether you're new to following Jesus or you've been doing so for decades, loving people can be painful, uncomfortable, and downright exhausting. Now more than ever, love seems to be absent from our attitude, words, and actions. The chapters of this book record Adam's own journey to understanding how to love, named after the people who've radically loved him, or that he's tried to love well. Through these stories--some touching, some difficult, some amusing--you'll see what real love looks like in the lives of real people. Sometimes the people we least expect.
Love knows you by name.
A few years back, I went to pick up my daughter from a birthday party. She was at one of those gymnastics places where the kids have free rein to jump into foam pits, swing on monkey bars, and do somersaults. To enter the gym area, you have to take off your shoes, so I came in, found a bench, and started to take my shoes off.
As I was untying my laces, I looked over and saw a little kid from the church I pastor. He smiled ear to ear, his eyes wide open, filled with excitement to see me. The kid started tapping his mom’s leg to get her attention. At first she didn’t look, so he kept tapping. When she finally looked up, he pointed at me and said, “Look, Mom! It’s Jesus!” Ha, I have clearly failed as a pastor if a little kid is mistaking me for Jesus!
But he did get one thing right: Jesus is everywhere!
His name. His image. Or at least a version of his name and image: Wavy brown hair that would make most ladies (and me) jealous. Deep blue eyes. Always wearing a white bathrobe and sandals like he’s ready for a walk on the beach.
Jesus—who appears to be the loving side of a God who’s angry at times. His name is the choice word when you stub your toe or hit yet another stoplight when you’re already late for work. He’s our “homeboy.” Our buddy. The dude in the picture frame on your grandma’s wall. In art. In songs. Tattoos. On T-shirts. Bumper stickers. Even a piece of toast.
We hear Jesus’s name sprinkled throughout conversations between people who haven’t been to church in years. Sometimes his name is mentioned at the center of a deep conversation, but more often than not, it’s dropped in without much thought.
Even Newsweek and the Discovery Channel regularly ask who Jesus is. But who is Jesus, really? The quick answer: A carpenter from a town called Nazareth. The son of Mary and Joseph. That about covers it, right?
Oh, and a bunch of us also believe he’s God. He was born from his mother, just as we all are born from our mothers, but he was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Know anyone else who was conceived by God? Me neither!
And we believe that he’s God with good reason. He gave sight to the blind. Made a dead person come back to life. Walked on water. Fed a few thousand people with a small lunch pail of food. He did and can do all kinds of things.
And he’s also perfect, so there’s that!
But more than Jesus’s ability to turn water into wine or do any other mind-bending miracle, the way he loves people is what truly sets him apart. It’s the way Jesus loves that makes him so different—at least, so different from me.
He Knows Our Name
There’s something special about a person’s name. When someone knows and remembers your name, it communicates worth. It helps you feel noticed. Important. Seen. When someone uses your name, it gives you value. Each of us has a longing inside to be known. To be loved. Remembering a name is the first step to knowing someone—to loving someone.
Me? I’m terrible at remembering names. I rarely forget a face, but I even struggle to remember my own kids’ names sometimes. I use the classic “Hey, man, how’s it going?” a lot of times when I can’t remember a person’s name. Wouldn’t it be so much easier if everyone wore a name tag at all times?
Jesus knew people’s names, before even meeting them. Not just the names everyone else knew. Not just the names of the public figures verified on Instagram, the religious elite, the well-off. Instead, Jesus used the names of everyone, including those society said had no worth—prostitutes, thieves, lepers.
One of my favorite stories ever is about the day Jesus came through the city of Jericho. There was a man there who collected taxes for a living. Basically, he overtaxed and stole money from his own people. To put it nicely: the man wasn’t very well liked. And he wasn’t just a tax collector, but we’re told he was a chief tax collector. Not just a jerk, the chief jerk!
So, he’s not well liked, but he has money. And somehow this man knew about Jesus coming to town, and he wants to see him. Maybe it was the large crowd that intrigued him. Maybe he heard about Jesus’s wild teaching and parables. Maybe he knew about the miracles. Maybe he had been told about the blind man who had just been healed outside the city earlier that day.
Whatever the reason was, the man wanted to see Jesus. But there was a problem: he was short. Very short. He’s a “wee little man.” He couldn’t see over the crowd to spot Jesus coming into town. But he had an idea. We’re told “he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree” to see him. Problem solved!
Each time I hear this story, it makes me wonder: What inside this man brought him up that tree? Was something missing in his life? He had made his money; wasn’t it enough?
When Jesus reached the man’s chosen perch, he looked up at the weirdo among the leaves and said, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”
Jesus knows his name!
What? He does? Why?
My favorite part is how we’re told that “Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy.”
I’m guessing there were times when Zacchaeus didn’t want his name to be known—probably by the people whose money he had taken—but he was elated that Jesus knew his name.
The crowd, on the other hand, was ticked. They grumbled and complained that Jesus not only knew Zacchaeus’s name but was going to his house, the house of a notorious sinner, to eat. He’s going to go to the house of the jerk who’s stealing everyone’s money? Shorty’s house? How could he?
If Jesus knows the name of a guy like Zacchaeus, I’m guessing he knows the names of the people in our lives too.
Our friends who hurt us.
Our high-maintenance coworkers.
Our hard-to-love in-laws.
Our frustrating spouses.
The spam callers trying to sell us who-knows-what.
The strange religious people who knock on our front door.
The know-it-alls on Twitter.
Jesus knows their names. Do we? Do we even want to? When we put names with faces, they’re no longer just faces in the crowd—they’re humans. No matter how much we don’t want to admit it, they have value. They have worth. We must remember that God made them, that God loves them, and that we’re commanded to love them too.
A name gives a person value. It’s hard to believe some people have value, isn’t it? But here’s a life-changing statement for us: their lives have the same value as ours. That’s hard to believe sometimes. But it’s true. The world might say otherwise and the crowds might shout something different, but Jesus doesn’t. He knows each of their names and often walks past crowds of people to go have a meal at the house of the one person we struggle to love the most. He walks past the well-known people to get to the person who appears to be worthless.
Are you starting to understand why the crowds were grumbling that day in Jericho when Jesus went to visit Zacchaeus? I wouldn’t have just grumbled; I would have been angry! I would have shouted my outrage because of the one Jesus picked out of the crowd.
But Jesus? He knew Zacchaeus’s name.
He knows our names too. My name.
He Knows Our Stories
Jesus not only knows your name and my name and the names of every other human being on the planet (which would make him a great candidate for president of the universe!), but he takes it a step further and knows our stories as well.
Jesus knows where we’ve been and what we’ve walked through.
Our pasts, good and bad.
The things we’ve never told anyone.
The things we’ve tried to forget.
He knows it all.
He knows our stories completely—how and why we are the people we are. He knows our stories even better than we do. We see Jesus, on numerous occasions, meeting someone for the first time, and before that person even speaks a word, Jesus makes it clear: he knows their name and their story.