“Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people…” (Matthew 15:32)

People: just the word inspires different thoughts in each of us. Sometimes we see the ridiculous things of which people are capable and we lift our eyebrows and shake our heads, saying “People!” Other times we see the images of teeming masses of humanity in impoverished, famine stricken nations and our breath is caught in our throat as we think of all the hurting people.

At some time or another, we have all been so sick of people, whether it was family members we fought with, backstabbing coworkers who used us to their advantage, or the inconsiderate people caught up in the busy hustle and bustle of life, taking your parking place, crowding ahead of you in line, or flipping you off, even though they were the ones who cut you off in traffic. Yea, we all have those moments when we’d just like to get away from all the people.

If it’s any consolation, Jesus had his troubles with people too. Not just the obvious ones, either. Jesus struggled against religious hypocrites, of course, but He also had challenges with His own ministry staff and even His family. The former clamored for position while the latter thought that He had taken leave of His senses. People.

John’s Gospel tells us that Jesus knew He couldn’t entrust Himself to the adoring crowds that followed Him and beheld His miracles because He knew what people were capable of deep down (John 2:23-25). He was right, and in the end the same crowds that had at one time lauded Him as God’s anointed man of the hour, were the same people who were stirred up to cry, “Crucify Him!” In fact, it was one of the people closest to Him that placed the kiss of betrayal upon His cheek.

For all of that God still loves people. In fact, the Bible clearly tells us that “God so loved (all the people) that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 author’s paraphrase). It should say something to us that the One who knows people the best still believes in us enough to make such sacrifice on our behalf.

When you see people, do you see the problem or the potential? Before you think you know the right answer, you need to realize that people come with both! You and I know that because we are people. You can’t mine a person’s potential without having to deal with the problems that come with people. Some of the greatest relationships I’ve had, that taught me the most, also came with the most problems. Sometimes the kid you raised that gave you the most grief, ends up becoming the greatest achiever, as he begins to realize his potential.

All of us can be a problem. All of us have great potential. If the cross shows us anything, it shows us that people are worth the investment. Every relationship you will ever have will have problems, but the people God brings into your life have a potential to help you realize your potential and bring things out of you that you never dreamed possible. So, love people, regardless of the problem they can be. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t be wise and discerning as to whom we let into our innermost councils or the secret places of our heart. Even Jesus chose His disciples after spending all night in prayer. But we are to love people, realizing that God put us all in the people business, and that in every person born into this world there is great potential behind the problem.

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