Love Walked Among UsLove Walked Among Us
Paul Miller
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His name is recognized the world over. Christians claim to follow him. Muslims honor him as a prophet. And many Jewish rabbis regard him as a great teacher. Everyone knows about Jesus, but how many of us fully understand what he was like as a person?

Nowhere was the vitality of Jesus more visible than in his love, a love unlike any the world has ever seen. Compassionate, honest, powerful, humble, and sacrificial---Jesus was love personified, love walking among us. Such an example doesn't just happen. How did he do it? And how can we learn to love like him?

In Love Walked Among Us, Paul Miller invites us to get to know Jesus, to observe his life and his love as they unfold in the gospel narratives. The accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John---combined with Miller's own life stories---will encourage us to imitate Jesus' way of loving people. We'll investigate such questions as:

  • How do you love someone when you get no love in return, only withdrawal or ingratitude?
  • How do you love without being trapped by another person?
  • How do you love when you have your own problems? When do you take care of yourself?
In every way, Jesus' life exemplifies the full potential of what we were intended to be. And the better we know him, the more we will be drawn to follow his perfect example.
     

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Paul Miller is the executive director of seeJesus.net, an organization that develops interactive Bible studies for small groups and also teaches seminars that train people to lead the study. In 1983 he began working with his father, Dr. Jack Miller, on what became World Harvest Mission. World Harvest has teams serving in nine countries. He was Associate Director of the mission from its beginning in 1983 until 1996. In the early 90s Paul wrote The Love Course, a course that studies the personality of Jesus as a way of learning to love. It is the precursor to The Person of Jesus course. He graduated from Temple University and has a Master of Divinity from Biblical Theological Seminary. Paul and his wife, Jill, have six children and live near Philadelphia. For more information on this ministry and The Person of Jesus study visit www.seeJesus.net.

 
Christianbook.com: In your book, you start off by mentioning a survey of about 200 people that were asked: When you get to heaven, what person in the Bible would you like to meet? Few Christians mention Jesus. Why is that?

Paul Miller: In this survey one person out of 200 said Jesus. And I think what threw them off was the word "person." Weíre just not used to thinking of Jesus in that category. We can connect with Peter because of all his foibles and weíre impressed with Paul and David. You can connect with those people. But we usually donít think of Jesus as a person. I think that the church has been discovering in the last 50 years is that God is a person. A lot of the debates in theology are centered around that frame on that, itís a personal discovery of the love of God.

Christianbook.com: How do you think Hollywood contributed to our impression of Jesusí humanity?

Paul Miller: I think they actually took a lot of their cue from the church where you have this sort of a plastic messiah. In most of the older Jesus films, heís presented as "just weird", he moves slowly, talks slowly, turns slowly. They try to make him sort of like a guru. He really cares for people and heís not this guru. And in some of the new Hollywood movies, heís sort of the "surfer dude" Jesus. So they go from one extreme to the other.

Christianbook.com: How do you feel that the church has contributed to the perception of a non-personal Jesus?

Paul Miller: Part of itís rooted in the reformation. The reformation discovered the Bible and discovered the gospel. The heart of that discovery of justification by faith was the book of Romans and Galatians. That was Martin Lutherís discovery and that was the explosion that we all live in today which is just wonderful. The shape of that explosion became such that they tended to read the gospels through a Romans grid. They looked at the gospels sort of hunting for theology or moral teaching. So the church brings a moral and theological framework to the gospels but sometimes we forget that thereís a person there. Itís about a person named Jesus.

Christianbook.com: In the book you speak about legalism, but not in the way most people would think of it. Explain your version of legalism as you described in the book.

Paul Miller: My concern in the book was more the personal legalism that we all have, the things that we are sure about, that are really the words of Paul Miller and not the words of God. For example I mentioned a story of relating to my wife. When sheíd be having a bad day, and be going off on something, and she had a lot to go off on with six kids. I would want to correct her, like a kind of legalism, like leading with the law and telling her how she should feel and do something instead of trying to understand. If the rule is front and center and you forget the person then you create a kind of legalism. Jesus provides a model for us in these situations. You see this all through Jesusí life. That he always thought of the person instead of ďthe lawĒ. I think some believers will actually ďfeelĒ compassion but they wonít ďdoĒ. You can translate that to the parable of the good Samaritan Ė where the modern person would be by the roadside and along comes the Christian and says I really feel your pain, and Iíll keep you in my prayers, but then they just keep walking. So you get both the distance and the glib closeness.

Christianbook.com: Share with us some of your observations about Jesusí honesty and commitment to truth.

Paul Miller: When I read the gospels through I wanted to get a look at Jesus, it was a personal thing for me, I wanted to get in touch with the real Jesus. I went through the gospels to evaluate him and tried to forget that he was God, just to see what he was like as a person. I concluded like C.S. Lewis that Jesus is not nice. An example I use in Luke 14, and this is my own paraphrase, is Jesus goes over to the Phariseeís house after synagogue and Heís a guest for dinner. As soon as everyone has sat down He turns to all the guests, thereís probably 15, 20, maybe even 30 people there, and he says to them, "Youíve chosen your seating based on pride and wanting to get ahead. If you live your whole life that way, youíll end up getting humbled, but if you begin with humility, life will really work." Itís a wonderful illustration of humility. Whatís incredible is that Jesus is a guest in this guys house eating his food and Heís telling the guests that theyíre all motivated by pride. And then he turns to the host in front of all the guests and tells him, "The next time you have a feast invite the disabled. It looks like youíre being really nice in giving this feast and everyone will return the offer of the feast, so youíre not really doing anything good." No one is that honest! Here is Jesus munching on this guys food, telling him he invited the wrong people! No one would ever do that, and that is the honesty side of Jesus. And we have approached that passage on Luke 14 purely from a moral perspective and Iím not saying that perspective is bad, itís just donít forget thereís a person here. That person is Jesus.

Christianbook.com: In the last part of the book you focus on His death, and you say "death is the center of love". What do you mean by that?

Paul Miller: In every act of love there is a little bit of dying. The cross becomes too theological, it is theological and Iím not denigrating that for a minute, but we need to see that the cross is a natural outflow of how Jesus lived his life. And as you love people you enter into a little dying. As in the good Samaritan, he killed a part of his life in order to help that man. He uses his own money to get him a place to stay, he gets blood on his clothes, and he messes up his own schedule, so it affects his life. We as Christians want to be like that to, but we want a love that will not affect us in our daily lives. We want to experience intimacy without dying and that just doesnít work. Simple example: Iím watching television and my wife wants me to vacuum. I have only so much time to do it and Iím unable to do it later. So I have a choice between watching the news and vacuuming and if I vacuum then I give up the news. So there is a little bit of dying there, and I try to link that in with the instances in the reformation on justification by faith, and that the heart of justification by faith is an exchange. On the cross Jesus took on our filthiness and we receive his righteousness. And that's the dynamic of love. So when I help my wife to vacuum I give her my free time and I receive from her the chore of vacuuming. And thatís why we donít want to love. Because itís a kind of dying, and we want to seek pleasure.

Christianbook.com: I like the quote from the book, "Love often does not erase worries, it just shifts them to a different set of shoulders Ė our own."

Paul Miller: Thereís the story in the book about lying in bed and just starting to fall asleep. Now thereís a big snowstorm going on at the time and my wife asks me to go outside and check on our sheep. To me it was totally unnecessary to do that because I knew that the sheep were O.K. I kind of argued with her in my mind lying in bed there, and I realized that in my own mind, I could win the argument, but she would just go out and check the sheep anyway. So what it really got down to was, do I want to get cold or does she want to get cold. So I can exchange the warmth of my covers for the coldness that she is about to take on herself. And thatís what Jesus did for us with our sin and now he calls us to do that with one another.

Christianbook.com: Tell us about your organization "SeeJesus.net".

Paul Miller: The organization develops interactive Bible studies for small groups. We go to churches and model the inductive teaching and then the churches take it from there. I always teach through the material before I write it. Itís a very low-key way to do evangelism. About 90% of the people who invite non-Christians, get them to come back and about 70% get them to come 4 more times. Itís very low key and if they come once, they usually tend to stay around. The first study that we did is called The Person of Jesus: A Study of Love. And my book Love Walked Among Us was written based on that study. The study has the same content as the book and itís written for discipling in small groups and especially written for non-Christians. Itís a very low-key way to introduce people to Jesus, the person of Jesus. The book was written with non-Christians in mind as well as Christians. There isnít any theological language and I go real light on the divinity aspect of Jesus. And through the book people discover that divinity aspect for themselves. First I introduce them to the "strangeness" of Jesus, in other words he combines qualities that you just donít see in anyone. Heís gentle and yet He is not afraid of people. Most gentle people tend not to have that kind of ferocious courage, and people who do have that ferocious courage donít have that gentleness. There are combinations and qualities about Jesus that you donít see in any one person. And these kinds of qualities draw you in. So I want them to be captured by his beauty in the person that He is.

Christianbook.com: Is it similar to the Alpha course?

Paul Miller: Itís very similar to the idea of the Alpha Course but the difference is the Alpha Course is sort of a broader overview of Christianity but the Person of Jesus Study, focuses on Jesus and uses that as a window to focus on other things. The book is a comprehensive survey of love and things like intimacy and sadness and anger, and that all Jesus experienced. Our course assumes that there is no interest in Christianity, it assumes that the people coming have problems in their life and are possibly interested in learning from Jesus.

We hope you enjoyed reading our interview. To get your copy of Love Walked Among Us, just click on the book below.
Love Walked Among Us
Love Walked Among Us