We all want to be noticed and recognized. We enjoy a heartfelt compliment, praise, or a little attention.
Published on: 10-02-2022
Our world is complex—and people have always been searching for answers.
Astronomers, physicists, theologians, and philosophers have approached life’s mysteries with respect and wonder. In search of a theory of everything that would explain the world, scientists have dug deeper into the mysteries of the universe and explored amazing connections. Yet a theory of everything has not been found. “If God created the world, His main concern was certainly not to construct it in a way that we could understand it,” world-famous physicist Albert Einstein is reported to have said.
An Ancient Quest
The Pharisees in Jesus’ days were also searching for the theory of everything. What holds the world together? What can everything be reduced to? They searched for it in the Torah. The commandments were the core of God’s revelation. But which is the greatest commandment? This question was a popular debate among the scribes. It seemed impossible to answer. Therefore the scholars asked Jesus, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” (Matt. 22:36, NIV). Jesus’ answer quickly summarized God’s revelation: Love God and your neighbor as yourself (cf. verses 37-40).
Here it is, the theory of everything that holds everything together. Love in three dimensions: love of God, love of my neighbor, and self-respect. We may not always understand clearly love for God or the value of self-respect, but loving our neighbor is very concrete. Jesus knew what He was talking about when He said, “Love your neighbor.” After all, He Himself loved His neighbors unconditionally. He treated every person with respect. Jesus knew how to give each person a sense of worth: Zacchaeus, the woman He met at Jacob’s well, and the Roman centurion in Capernaum. Jesus’ unconditional love managed to separate the person from their action. That’s why He was able to love even those who hated Him.
Jesus: Man of Conflict
While Jesus loved people unconditionally, He never avoided conflict just for the sake of peace, so that everyone would feel comfortable. He could be righteously angry. Even in His anger, however, He never violated the dignity of others, but always communicated based on facts. He clearly called sin by its name. For example, He addressed the Pharisees as a “brood of vipers”—clearly no term of endearment. However, Jesus offered strong reasons for this reproach. He alerted Peter about His threefold denial before it happened (Matt. 26:34), and when His family came to take Him out of the public’s focus, He provocatively asked, “Who are My brothers?” (Matt. 12:48).
Jesus: Man of Courage
Jesus could put His finger where it hurts, but He was also never reluctant to praise others. His praise, however, offered no feel-good niceties lacking substance. He approached each person authentically. He didn’t cultivate any prejudices, not even those that were already part of Jewish common knowledge: women as second-class people, Gentiles no better than dogs, tax collectors as traitors. No, Jesus distanced Himself from imperfect oversimplifications and always got straight to the point. Very gently and with respect He separated sin from sinner and addressed the longing of those He encountered. That made Him the best ambassador of God’s kingdom.
The Power of Appreciation
We know this phenomenon, but today we call it appreciation. Appreciation approaches others as wholistic beings. It’s said that appreciation is associated with respect, goodwill, and recognition, and is expressed in attentiveness, interest, and friendliness.
Sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? We all want to be noticed and recognized. We enjoy a heartfelt compliment, praise, or a little attention. We begin to thrive when someone really listens to us and sees us. We are grateful for respect and genuine interest. Appreciation warms our hearts, builds our courage, and gives us wings. We become better people because someone believes in us and gives us value. Whether a mere acquaintance or a friend or close family member—we all thrive on appreciation.
Big business has also discovered this theory of everything and has made it a big topic. There is hardly a training seminar without the reference to the much-praised appreciation culture. This approach is supposed to engender unity and motivate employees to give their best. At times, one might think that paradisical conditions are about to return to a company and that universal reconciliation is imminent. Even so, a core theme of being human is addressed here.
It is therefore even more important that we give esteem and appreciation its rightful place in everyday church life. Especially in the context of a church or local congregation, we often take people for granted. We expect a high level of commitment from our members, without often recognizing the importance of each individual member. We look forward to the moment when our Master will say to the redeemed: “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matt. 25:23) and forget that we, too, are called to offer kindness and appreciation to those around us—including in our congregations. If we want to be ambassadors for God’s kingdom, then we are called to reflect Jesus’ attitude of love and care for those with whom we rub shoulders.
God wants us to share a tiny bit of Paradise on earth, wherever we go and whatever we do.
God’s Theory of Everything
So there it is, God’s theory of everything. I can see it in Scripture and in the life of Jesus again and again. “The Saviour taught this principle [the golden rule] to make mankind happy, not unhappy; for in no other way can happiness come,” wrote Ellen White about this unconditional attitude of appreciation. “Seize every opportunity to contribute to the happiness of those around you, sharing with them your affection. Words of kindness, looks of sympathy, expression of appreciation, would to many a struggling, lonely one be as a cup of cold water to a thirsty soul. A word of cheer, an act of kindness, would go far to lighten the burdens that are resting heavily upon weary shoulders. . . . Live in the sunshine of Christ’s love. Then your influence will bless the world.”*
Genuine appreciation has never harmed anyone. On the contrary, appreciation is the balm that heals our everyday life.
* Ellen G. White, My Life Today (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1952), p. 165.