from “The God of New Beginnings: Hope for the Lost” devotional plan
It is a universal fact of life that none of us—rich or poor, stable or in chaos—engages very freely with people we don’t trust. For people who carry a load of personal junk, this is doubly true. They certainly do not feel anywhere near qualified to approach a holy God. The very thought of a relationship with Jesus is downright scary to them. Thus, the starting point for any kind of redemption is to find another human being who’s not fake or faux or manipulative, but real.
Relationship is the pipeline that lets the gospel flow freely. There are nineteen different places in the New Testament where God calls his people to “love one another” (see John 13:34–35; Romans 12:10). Love drains out our prejudices and draws us to see one another as unique people. People who have been taken advantage of or misled in the past have especially sensitive antennae for phoniness and pretension. It won’t do for any of us to try to keep a brave face, masking feelings of inner revulsion.
To fake acceptance or pleasantness is a dead-end street. Most people will sniff us out before long. Instead, we have to see each person we encounter the way Jesus did—the way he reacted to the woman caught in adultery, for example. He never showed a flicker of disdain while still recognizing the fact of her wrongdoing (see John 8:11). She left that encounter relieved and uplifted.
We cannot manufacture love for the chronically homeless or addicted. We have to get the heart of Jesus to love them. As the apostle John wrote, “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). And isn’t this how we know we are growing as disciples anyway? The closer we get to Jesus, the more we love the way he does. Unless our hearts are truly broken, we will never bring hope to hopeless people.
We don’t have to have a shared history or experience with people to be in relationship with them. We need to be willing to walk with them in their pain and dysfunction. We don’t coddle or enable the person to continue their self-destruction, but we bring truth into the circumstances as we extend unconditional love and care. Real relationships are organic and are genuine investments in friendship. Real relationships eliminate the us and them mentality. As Christians [us], our goal isn’t to serve them, although service allows us to connect with people’s needs. We sit and listen to them. We eat the same food they eat, at the same tables. We work hard to treat folks as friends.
Real relationships with people in need do not always lead to happy endings. They bleed into our lives and make a mess. But God just seems to open doors for those willing to love the people no one else wants to love. You don’t have to have a college degree in sociology to care for people. You don’t have to be ordained. You only have to be willing to love. Real, genuine, patient, unconditional relationships can lead to the only relationship that truly changes and heals people—a relationship with Jesus.
It’s all about relationship. Real relationship. That is how you will most often get the chance to tell somebody about the greatest Friend ever–by being their friend.
But we first need to have a relationship with Jesus. The only way we can love others–really love them–is by experiencing His love and having it flow through us.
The last two paragraphs are what really hit me. We don’t have to have gone through the same experiences as someone else has, in order “to be in relationship with them.” We just have to be willing to walk with them. To be there. To listen. To be friends. To love them. And we don’t “coddle” them or tiptoe around them or let them continue destroying themselves and perhaps others; we need to speak the truth, to show the right way to go–yet, still loving, still caring, still desiring the best for them.
And sometimes, these relationships won’t have happy endings. Sometimes these people you are loving and witnessing to won’t turn to Jesus. Sometimes they keep living a self-destructive life. Sometimes they walk away and you never hear from them again. Sometimes you pray and love and witness and pray and love–and you never see any effects, never see any change. Sometimes you’ll get frustrated; sometimes, discouraged; sometimes, heartbroken.
But God never told us we had to lead everyone we meet to Him. Yes, He said to witness, to share the Gospel, to show them His love–but it’s up to them whether or not they receive it. It’s their choice, not ours. What is up to us is whether or not we’re willing to love. Willing to put ourselves out there. Willing to go the extra mile, even when it’s not pleasant. It’s our choice to start a real relationship with a person in need. . . or not.
And you never know. . . maybe, just maybe, by being a friend to someone who needs it, you’ll be able to personally introduce them to the Best Friend Ever.
P.S. I’m sorry for the sporadic blog posts. Lately it’s been hard for me to get inspired enough to actually write. 😕 Thank you for being patient and not chewing me out. 😄 I appreciate you all taking the time to read my random, sometimes rambling thoughts; and hopefully things will get better, and I’ll start writing more often! Thanks again!