what’s your relational motive?
Recently I was having a conversation with a friend about the importance of extending ourselves relationally into the lives of people we’re trying to reach with the love of God. Our conversation has caused me to rethink and clarify why it is we stress this idea of ‘relational community’ when it comes to our church and our understanding of the Way of Jesus and the Kingdom of God. In our gatherings, we talk a lot about genuine and authentic relationships (with God and people), and one of the most effective and practical ways we find ourselves growing relationally with others is by giving away our most valuable resource…our time. It’s valuable because you can never get it back. Once you’ve given it away, it’s gone. And we all know there’s very little of it – it seems – available in our lives (which probably explains why we are so prone to become so selfish with our own time; ie: “I just need some time for myself.”).
This past weekend, our core team chatted about ideas and some fresh ways we can continue to advance our vision and build relationships with new people by showing them that we genuinely care…not by simply inviting them into our own world, but by being willing to step into their world – at the expense of our own time. As one author so well put it, ‘people don’t care how much you know until they know that you care.’ That is the essence of what it means to give ourselves away relationally. If we’re not willing to give away the greatest resource that God has given us, how can the world around us truly know that we care…and ultimately through us that God cares? This may even raise the question that one of my friends asked his friend recently; “are you in love with Jesus?” and ‘what does your time say to back it up?’ Tough questions.
Back to my conversation with my friend: He posed the question, “do we find ourselves spending so much time with others for the sheer purpose of one day having the opportunity to share with them how they can become like us by believing like us, or do we do so simply because we love them.” As my friend Larry put it this morning, “would you still spend time with me, would you still be my friend if I never believed like you?” The issue here has to do with agenda, and whether or not we’re trying to conform someone or see someone transformed through relationship. This raises another tough question for the follower of Jesus; “are we giving ourselves away relationally for the ultimate purpose of seeing someone believe like us, or are we giving ourselves away relationally our of love for that person? Do our relationships have ultimate agendas? Are we more focused on the ‘bait and switch’ approach that lures people in so that we can ultimately share our beliefs with them?
Let me clarify something before I conclude: I believe it is out of our love and obedience to God that we are compelled to share with others of the hope and the life we have found in Jesus, and ultimately we want everyone we come in contact with to taste and experience what we have found in Him. However, I believe we are being more like Jesus by giving ourselves away relationally out of love rather than giving ourselves away with the agenda of getting something in return (ie: ‘come to church with me,’ ‘believe like I do,’ etc.). Embracing the life of God begins with the understanding that we are always called to give more than we receive because that’s what Jesus shows us through His relationship with us. A love-motivated relationship invites someone to journey with you as you grow deeper in relationship with God…together. And as your journey together, it creates level ground between two disciples who are learning more and more about what it means to follow the Way of Jesus.
There is nothing in life (and in eternity) more important than relationships, and the relationships (however many of them there are) that count the most are the ones we give ourselves away to freely out of a heart of love.