Use Negative Experiences for the Good of Others

     Michael has come a little early to church and is sitting alone. It seems he is listening to the worship team as they warmup. I start to pass by on my way to the foyer to greet people as they arrive for the service but stop. Instead, I sit next to him and begin a conversation. He is very receptive.

He’s not quite 13 and his family doesn’t attend church, but he comes faithfully. Would I be comfortable walking into church by myself at age 12? Most adults don’t even like to come alone, especially if they have trouble interacting with people. It can be difficult to break into conversations when people are linked by their history with one another.

Once when I was new to a church, I tried to approach small groups after the service but most had no room for me. Knowing how uncomfortable it is to be on the outside, I look for those who might need to know they are welcome and wanted.

     Our negative experiences can have a positive effect on our behavior. They help us to walk out the scriptures. This has been true for me while learning to walk out Luke 6:31–“And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.”  

     When I first read this passage of scripture, I really didn’t know how to implement it. I thought perhaps this might apply to picking up the lunch check at a restaurant, or allowing someone to easily merge onto the freeway and change lanes, or not talking during a movie at a public theater. These were all behaviors I appreciated.

     Yet a deeper, more profound meaning began to emerge as I examined the scars I have, which are evidence I live in a fallen world. The scars are a result of being wounded.

     For example, when I was about 19 years old, I worked at a summer resort as a busgirl in the restaurant. For some reason, I am not sure why, my boss did not like me. He was critical of my work and nothing I did to improve pleased him. He was an authority figure, and instead of training, helping, and advising he was demeaning and belittling. I dreaded work and cried in private. However, since I didn’t have much of a resume, I was afraid to quit not knowing if I could find other employment. I needed to save money for college.

     This experience has given me a better understanding of how to treat others. Especially if I am in a position of authority. Although it happened years ago, it left a scar as a reminder.

     Scars can develop when we are wounded. They can happen anytime occurring when we are a child, a teen, a young adult and into our senior years. Also, they can be left by the hand of anyone. Sometimes we know and love the person who wounds, while at other times it is a passing interaction, someone we barely know.

     Has anyone ever had a difficult conversation with a physician who was condescending? What about a teacher who made you feel stupid rather than looking for ways to help you understand the curriculum being taught?

Scars can be left by both words and actions.

Words that are demeaning, sarcastic, critical, or unkind might scar. They are often a result of not being well thought out. Sometimes it is best to remain silent, until we know how to deliver a message in a way that builds up rather than tears down.

Of course, we are told actions “speak” louder than words. We can say we care about someone but unless we show it as well, our comments seem disingenuous.

I encourage you to think about your scars. Remember how you obtained them. Then use these experiences to guide your interactions with others. This is practicing “do to others as you wish them to do to you.”

©2023 Susan Cort Johnson *All Rights Reserved

Image from Pixabay

Let’s Talk:

1-What negative experience in your past has helped you treat others better?

2-Please share an example in the comment section of how you or another Christian has put Luke 6:31 into practice.

The Lack of Agape in a World Apart from Christ

“Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:39b

     I have been dwelling on agape love, a selfless love, for a long time. Studying scripture verses, looking up the definition of the Greek words used to define it. The Lord has been bountiful in His help.

     This week He provided more information in a chapter of my Bible study, “Living Wisely” by Cynthia Heald. This author wrote about the difficulty she had loving her father who was an unpredictable man who caused stress. Her way of dealing with the situation was to distance herself from him. But this way of coping was not of God, she wrote. We are to love others as Christ loves us (John 13:34).

     “Christ’s love is unconditional, sacrificial, and everlasting,” wrote Heald. 1

     It is important to understand this love, for it proves to the world we are Christ’s disciples (John 13:35).

     It has nothing to do with how people treat us, but everything to do with how we treat them.

     Reading modern advice columns, I see the lack of agape in the world. Here are a few of the issues that would be easy to resolve with sacrificial love.

     **Neighbors ask this person to take care of their cat but never reciprocate or bring a thank you gift. Often they ask for the favor the night before leaving town. [Tell them it is your pleasure to help them out.]

     **A father keeps sending articles on career advice the recipient finds insulting. Other than the messages he sends, contact is limited. The son or daughter wants to know how to tell their father to stop giving unsolicited advice. [Thank dad for the advice. Regularly invite dad to meet you for coffee, breakfast, or lunch.]

     **When family members came to town, which is a tourist area, one couple let them stay in the motorhome parked in their driveway. This helped their family save money on the price of a hotel. Hospitality was further extended by hooking up water, gas, and electricity to the motorhome. Yet upon their departure, the family members simple stripped the bed before leaving.

Advice was needed on how to let these family members know the motorhome was no longer an option when they came to town. [Continue to be hospitable. Make your motorhome available to out-of-town guests anytime you are in town.]2

     Agape love is not an “if you do this, I’ll do that” kind of love. Yet often we want it to be so, and we justify our response with the term “setting boundaries.” Truthfully, I need to find the scriptural guidelines for this practice because I am not so sure it is currently being used correctly. [I will be writing about what I find.] There are too many severed relationships within Christian families.

     Agape love cannot be practiced apart from Christ for it is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

     Rom 5:5—”Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” NKJV

We cannot expect this love from the world, but we are expected to demonstrate the love of Christ to the world.

Let’s Talk:


In the next few weeks, I am going to be purposely practicing agape love. This entails looking for all the opportunities God presents and charting my response. I will record my reaction, how it is right or wrong according to God’s Word, and the Holy Spirit’s direction on how to show the love of Christ.

Let me know if you will join me in this challenge in the comments below.


1-“Living Wisely, Believing the Truths of Scripture” by Cynthia Heald, NavPress.

2-“Real Simple” magazine March 2022 issue, “Modern Manners.”

©2022 Susan Cort Johnson *All Rights Reserved

Leaving Room for a Different Approach

     “He has a different approach.” This casual comment made by a fellow Christian provided a dissimilar viewpoint of ministering to women contemplating abortion. The goal of pro-life ministry is to save the unborn. Can there be two ways to accomplish the same results?

     I was comfortable joining a young woman from our church to pray in front of an abortion clinic for a few hours one Saturday morning as part of a ministry called 40 Days for Life. Participants, who hold signs that read “Pray to end abortion,” present a “peaceful and educational presence.” A nonconfrontational approach with which I agree. It is the approach I was sure Jesus would use. Yes, in my mind it demonstrated agape love… that intelligent, intense love that seeks the best for others.  

     As we drove to our destination, I learned that on Wednesdays when abortions were performed at the women’s clinic, a different kind of pro-life advocate had begun to show up. The “in your face” kind. Yes, those who would stop women on their way into the clinic to beg them to reconsider. “Don’t do it!” “Turn back!” “You’ll regret this decision!” It was the kind I didn’t want to associate with, wouldn’t Christianity get a bad name?

     But the Holy Spirit grabbed my attention with the words “different approach.” My thoughts, my heart, went out to the women surprised by pregnancy. Perhaps in a desperate situation which would become even more complicated with the birth of a child. Poverty stricken, barely able to put food on the table for themselves and not enough money for childcare while at work. Unmarried, pressured by a boyfriend who wants no part in the responsibility of raising a child. That Saturday morning, I paced up and down in front of that clinic, praying for those type of women. My heart was filled with compassion for them. “Show me how to help them,” I prayed.

     Could a more confrontational approach be just as compassionate? Yes, for those who were trying to snatch the unborn from certain death. Wednesday was a different day. They came each Wednesday because God had given them boldness. Although this approach had not been given me, it was indeed agape love. An intense love, willing the best for the unborn and ultimately the women too.

     That day I realized it is okay to approach ministry differently. Someone who does not teach like I do can get a point across in a different way reaching those I could not reach and vice versa. We often critique teachers from our bias labeling them “good” or “poor,” yet they are instruments of God with one task and that is to remain faithful to their calling. We can also be critical of the way people deliver the gospel message as well. I was surprised to read a testimony where someone came to know Jesus by reading the book “The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren. I guess I had read too many bad reviews, yet the Holy Spirit used this book to open someone’s heart to Christ.

     Matthew 7:1-2 reads: “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” ESV

     This judging we are warned against in the Bible can masquerade in many forms that makes it difficult to detect. Yet, it can stifle the work of the Spirit.

     Before I learned the clinic was closed on Saturdays, I suggested we separate from the more aggressive brothers and sisters in Christ. Make sure we did not associate with them. But action was not to be taken that day, only action within my heart. That Saturday our impact was through prayer and the message on the signs we carried visible to the public as they drove past in their cars. But on Wednesdays, many who come to the clinic to save the unborn use a “different approach.”

Contemplate Your Ways:

1-Have you ever judged another group because their way of doing ministry was not like yours? If so, what was it about their methods you didn’t like?

2-How can two people with different methods of ministry work together toward the same goal?


     If you would like to learn more about 40 Days For Life visit their website at: