This week I have been a witness to some ... um, shall we say unloving actions that erupted around disagreements over 'ministry' events. I was sad to see the anger, hurt feelings, and friendships nearly come to an end over these disagreements; I was left wondering why we do this? All this got me thinking about how often this happens, and how we can get so focused on a task that we forget that all we 'do' is really about people.
In Matt 20:1-16, Jesus tell us a parable about a landowner who hires men to work in his vineyard. Some he hires in the morning, some at noon, and some near the end of the day. At the end of the day, he pays them all the same amount and the workers who were hired at the beginning of the day are upset by this. There are many lessons that can be drawn from this story, but one lesson that seems especially clear in this story is that the landowner (God) is more interested in the worker than he is the work. God isn't in need of people to work for him, he has no needs at all. In this story Jesus is trying to get us off of the works orienting mindset, and to start looking at the people around us in relational terms. What he desires is a relationship with people, and he expects us to have the same attitude.
I heard a Guy say that if this was a parable about a cook-out, then we would see things quite differently. We would say to the people who showed up at the end, "I'm so sorry you missed all the fun and fellowship, here have a hamburger and hot dog!" We would eagerly share all that we could with the latecomer, glad that they came at all. Wouldn't that be a wonderful way to live as brothers and sisters in Christ?
I dream of the day when these words of Jesus are fulfilled in us: 'by this all men will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another' (John 13:35)