“You’re such a people-person!” he said. Startled, I did not know how to reply. I am, in all respects an “introvert”: more comfortable observing rather than participating; having little patience with “small talk”; preferring to work alone; and needing solitude.
I thought he knew me better than this! If in doubt, smile.
Afterwards, I had to consider what this beloved preacher from my childhood had said. For he did know me very well. I was part of a group of children he took special care to teach in addition to his regular preaching. As a budding Biblical scholar, I had frequent conversations with him. And if I had not known him as preacher, I would still have known him as a family friend. He knew me: where I had come from, who I was, and where I hoped to go. And yet his view of me was so very different from my view of myself.
You see, by nature I am not a “people-person”. I don’t like people. But I am a disciple of Jesus, and He loves people.
A few years before that conversation took place, I had begun to understand that the way I tended to react to people was not the way God wanted me to react. His way requires a more active engagement. I tried to learn. So, when I considered what it might mean that my preacher-friend called me a people-person, I realized it was a great compliment. My efforts to become more what God wanted me to be were paying off. Others saw me as being what I was trying to be rather than what I had been, even if I still felt like the same introverted hermit.
Through the years, I’ve come to think differently of that remark. It was no compliment to me that he saw me as a “people-person”. It was testimony to the work of the Holy Spirit in me, transforming my nature. I still don’t especially like people. But I have learned to love people.
A new Christian is not at all what that same person will be as a mature Christian. You may see his/her nature and think you know how God will use it. But God will change that nature. If one submits, who knows what (s)he will become?
John the Apostle was known as a “Son of Thunder” in his younger days (Mark 3:17; Luke 9:54). One might expect God to use him to proclaim judgement, full of righteous anger. But no. As and old man, he had become (as his is still called) the “Apostle of Love”. Love. Discipleship is transformative. New Christians are never yet all that God will make of them.
“…put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:24