We saw several more houses over the weekend. We have seen many houses. It's reinforced over and over again that this town is entirely out of price range-that it will take a miracle to find a place that we can afford and will be sustainable. And in our shopping for homes, we are learning more about the town and it's different neighborhoods. While West Hartford is considered a suburb of Hartford - it has quite the urban feel. It's densely populated with a variety of neighborhood communities within it's lines. One neighborhood such as Elmwood has a completely different demographic than that if it's neighbor, Bishops Corner. There are clear boundary lines between these neighborhoods and we find that we must be quite sensitive to where God would have us start this work.Read More
Romans 12:9-10, 17-18: Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. “Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other...
Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.
In efforts to keep peace, we stay silent, we clinch our teeth and determine to better love that person who rubs us raw. And although there may be times where God whispers, "Be still, be silent", we miss other opportunities to speak the truth in love.
When we avoid conflict, is it because we are afraid we will hurt the other person? Is it because we just feel too awkward, so awkward that it can make us physically ill. Or, do we simply feel it is not worth our time or effort?
We will go to many lengths to avoid a person or situation.
But is it really about them and is it more about us? In what ways have we rubbed a person raw? How have our words, our actions, our facial expressions wounded another person?
Better yet, maybe we think we have put on a great face and clenched our teeth tight enough-but our deep rooted hurt and anger is beginning to leak out all over our interactions with that person.
No matter how hard we may try, covering our ugliness towards a person or ignoring the pain experienced by another person will never offer real peace. In the end all that will produce is a false peace shrouded by false love and intentional avoidance.
God's Word tells us in James that our quarrels and fights come from the "passions at war within us".
We must deal with our own brokenness and we must name the pain caused by others. Whether this leads to a full confrontation will be up to the leading of the Holy Spirit, the other person's willingness, and our determination to grow in the process and seek or find forgiveness.
To truly love, to love well, is to be willing to go the hard way of acknowledging disappointments, failures, and hurt. It requires us to see the other as God would. Eyes with mercy, clothed with compassion, hands offered in grace and forgiveness. Sometimes this is done quietly with God alone, in those moments He says "Be still and silent". And, many times, it comes when we are willing to lay down our pride, ask God to help us, and go share truth in love. Or it comes when we humble ourselves, acknowledge our wrongdoing, and ask for forgiveness.
Why we do cheapen grace and mercy for others by living in ways of false peace and false love? Why does it seem that it is actually a good thing to self protect when that usually only results in pain and broken relationships?
If we could pull our eyes off our neighbor long enough to take a good look inside, judgements tend to slip away. Our eyes become so full of our own mess that we flinch to think we had a right to remove another's mess. Mercy triumphs over judgement. Always. Truth in love triumphs over passivity. Always. Does mercy always mean silence? Does mercy always mean simply walking away? I don't think so. If our walking away is not sensitively led by the Holy Spirit, it inevitably results in avoidance, passive aggressive behavior, manipulation, and more.
How do you know when to stay silent or when to speak? Listen to God's voice. He leads, He whispers move or stop. Ultimately, if you find yourself in conflict or needing to confront, consider this, I read this once somewhere in a biblical counseling article and took note of it:
"Peace-makers see conflict as an assignment, not an accident. They approach the problem with humility, reasonableness, and seeking wisdom from God (James 3:17-18). They do not intimidate, but they also do not hide. They expect conflict, embrace the opportunity to resolve things biblically, and have an urgency to keep unity in the midst of hard times."
I am learning this over and over again. If someone has wronged you or offended you, share truth with the right purpose...
- It's not your role to change character or to help a person become self aware. That is God in them. The extent to which a person is self-aware is usually the extent to which they are able to receive truth of offense.
- Is there trust and respect?
- Are there ears to hear and a heart to respond? Most times there is if only we approach the person with humility.
- Ultimately, what are you trying to accomplish or gain?
Finally, if you know you have offended or wounded a person - even if you may not understand it completely - humble yourself and go share love and request forgiveness. Don't let it go dormant, don't avoid.
Our living in peace with one another will not mean passivity and ignorance. It means we strive to live in peace, actively seek peace. Search for it and work for it as the treasure it is. Listen tenderly to the Spirit. Take the necessary inside look to discover your brokenness. For the sake of peace, rock the boat, say only what is necessary, love deeply and truly. Then watch our faithful and merciful God work.
I have struggled my entire faith journey with the "outsider" mentality. You know...those inside the church and those outside the church. We desire to reach, to win, to save - those people. I have found myself feeling that, although unintentional, that mentality creates those who do not follow God into objects rather than people. Or even suggests that we are pitted against one another. It's as though we think, "I have to find a way to win you to my side". There are differences between those who believe in and follow Christ - and those that do not. Of course. But I think our response to those differences is vital to the core of Christ's message of redemption and love. I read this passage today.
But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this? You see, we are not like the many hucksters who preach for personal profit. We preach the word of God with sincerity and with Christ’s authority, knowing that God is watching us.
2 Corinthians 2:14-17 NLT
When I read a passage such as this it causes me to ask why would we, for one moment, think that if we do something perfectly right that our message of Christ will be well received? The message of Christ to those that do not believe is difficult to accept, to engage with, and it is the work of the Holy Spirit in that persons life that will cause them to become engaged or receptive.
Nonetheless, we work tirelessly to come up with engaging, "attractional" ways to share the truth and love of Christ. I just believe it is better for us that we center on the message itself, the why behind what we do, and the how will flow out of that. When we become too engaged with the how, our priority and purpose begins to blur and you have to wonder, to reflect whether it has become less about sharing the love of Christ and more about a personal gain of triumph for "winning a person to Christ". We share Christ's love with confidence and purity, and He will cause it to take root and grow. We build real relationships with the world without agendas of a hopeful outcome, with only the purpose and call to love as Christ loves us. We live, speak, and share truth. But, we must remember, we water, we plant-but God alone causes the growth.
What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. 1 Corinthians 3:5-9
If we are not careful, "winning people to Christ" becomes nothing but a phrase that helps build our religiosity pride. Can we simply be sincere in love and care for all we encounter, believing that as we authentically display the fruit of Christ, sharing the reason for the hope that we have, He will work in and through each person that we encounter? Is it enough for us to be the one who plants or waters?
A person is not my prize for doing good, for speaking the gospel. People are not prizes to be won, they are not something to be triumphed. It is not us vrs. them, and it is not "those people" or "outsiders that we work to make insiders". They are creations of God and, with or without us, He is working through the Holy Spirit to redeem and restore. We do not provide or create the result. We are only a piece of the process - of their journey - meant to be a tangible example of God's love for you and me.
We must be intentional and purposeful in how we speak truth, and how we share the reason for the hope that we have. We must be sensitive always in hearing the voice of God as he leads us to people, to moments-as He opens a door to share. We must purpose to not avoid being around those that are not of the same faith as we. We must care for a person's soul. Yet, it must not become an overworked strategic game where we are so focused on the outcome of our winning that we miss the truth of our place in the process.
I don't pretend to have the answer for this wrestling. That's the beauty of the redemptive God that we serve, he invites us to wrestle...to engage in questions and to keep wrestling until we hear His voice. Here is what I know to be true: the more I allow God to transform me on the inside the more I am able to engage with, love, and care for others. The more He reveals my own brokenness, my propensities to stray, my own struggles and weaknesses, the more the thought of us vrs them breaks down and does not work or exist. In the end, I see our God who holds the WHOLE world in His redemptive hand and I see His children, some who are embracing His love, some who are resisting His love, and some who are unaware of His love - different yet the same treasured creation of a loving Father full of grace and truth. This different perspective increases the desire that all will know the truth and love of the Father who created them. It becomes less about accomplishing a goal to win and more about love, truth, and hope.