by John Shepherd
We all have vampires in our lives. I’m not talking about the fictional creatures with pale skin and sharp fangs. I’m referring to the very real people who suck the life out of us.
They may live in your town, across the street, maybe even inside your church or home. So, how do you love the people who drain you? How is it possible to obey our King’s command to love everyone, including those who drain the joy out of our lives?
First, it would serve us well to understand what Jesus’ command to love everyone does not mean. Unconditional love for everyone does not grant everyone unlimited access to my life.
Healthy people live with relational boundaries in place depending on the nature and trust level of the relationship. For example, I love my wife unconditionally; therefore, she has unrestricted access to every area of my life. She has a key to our house, even full access to our bedroom and my laptop.
I also love my friend Jeffery unconditionally, but he does not have a key to my house or access to my bedroom (for which we are both thankful!). That is not the nature of our relationship. Bottom Line: Healthy relationships have boundaries, while unhealthy ones do not.
Second, I need to remember that the Bible says I’m a vampire, too. Romans 5:8 says that while I was still a sinner (that is, a vampire who sucked the life out of God and those around me), Christ died for me. Remembering that I suck, too, helps me be more patient with those vampire people who suck the life out of me.
Third, give yourself permission to say, “No,” to people who drain you. Jesus limited the access He gave to the vampires in His life—the Pharisees. And if Jesus set boundaries with vampires, so should we.
Fourth, say yes to spending time with people who refresh you—a lot! There are certain people who refresh us, and the Bible says it’s right and necessary to spend time with them. One such relational refresher for the Apostle Paul was Philemon.
In Philemon 7, Paul writes, “Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.”
Lastly, remember to eat before you go. Let me give you an illustration. Recently, my wife and I were invited for dinner in the home of a couple in our church. Since we had no idea whether either one of them could cook, I decided to eat a snack before we got in the car to go to their home.
Fortunately, one of our hosts turned out to be an amazing cook, and that evening in their home turned out to be most enjoyable.
God used that evening to teach me an important lesson: Before I leave the house every day to step into a world filled with vampires, I should spend time with my Heavenly Father and feast on His Word.
When I am full of Him and His presence in my life, then I am not expecting others to fill my life with love, peace, and joy. My heart is already full when I get there, and I am better able to serve, love, and lead others toward God and His dream for their lives.
John Shepherd is pastor of River Oaks Community Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.