I admire the genuine zeal of true believers who become salespersons or teachers in any form. They are unencumbered by doubt as they set about trying to persuade others to buy whatever they’re selling or follow their instruction. I have no desire to impugn either their integrity or motivation.
But their earnest efforts do not mean they effectively love others.
To love others is to put their well-being ahead of our own. Is that even possible if we make no effort to make sure what we offer meets a genuine and timely need for customers or students?
Too many teachers, counselors, coaches, financial advisors, ministers and sales agents grab their own positive experiences by the collar and conclude that they will be beneficial to everyone. These folks may be well-intentioned. That doesn’t mean they can’t do damage. Imagine chefs so enamored by the tasty excellence of their peanut oil-prepared meal that allergic reactions actually surprise them. Incredulous, they wonder: “How could they not like my cooking?”
One size doesn’t fit all. It never has. As a 6’5” near-freak of nature who can’t buy off-the-rack clothing I have an eye for the person who might be an outlier. It seems to be an affinity of Jesus’, too.
In fact, as Jesus demonstrated time after time, loving teachers don’t get stuck in curricular inflexibility. Possessed by passionate clarity about what matters most they customize their instruction with patience and love. They are keen-eyed observers, ready to seize on teachable moments when real life change has a chance to flourish. Or they can be disruptive, sounding alarms among those flirting with danger. With so much at stake love sometimes requires that we warn the calcified.
Important life-changing truths will not bear fruit simply because they are well-delivered; they must be well-received. Love discovers what’s most pressing to others and what they might be ready to risk right now.
Without gaining and adjusting to this vital information can any agenda of influence be genuinely loving?