Had a nice chat with a former denominational president this morning which once again reminded me of the old paradigm “Believe, behave belong”.
He mentioned how this has been turned on it’s head over the past few generations in culture. It’s now (as a book study he was in brought to light) “Belong, believe, behave”.
We had begun to ponder this several years ago when hearing this new phrase on an overseas tour.
Sometimes Christians (and other groups) are so obsessed with behavior that belonging is impossible, so focused on the newcomer or “outsider” coming to faith that the concept of honest, slow and relational interaction outside of these two matters isn’t even considered.
I was often guilty of this as a young leader.
As we age we either become more brittle and at times, indifferent or our hearts grow (spiritually speaking) and therefore engage at a different and often deeper level with both God and others.
I find the temptation to remove myself from the associated pains of getting close to really difficult people as real in my life as anyone.
Like Jonah, I have often wanted to head in the opposite direction! How about you?
“Face value” is only one way of determining what’s true and real about others, and when you cross-reference and over a long stretch of time begin to unravel and discover who a person really is, how they became who they are (at least who they are at that stage in their life) and what their actual issues are, well this takes a level of love and commitment that goes far beyond most people’s willingness to give.
I find it’s not others’ misery that troubles me as much as my own reluctance to share it with them.
It’s true that hurting people hurt others- so when you’ve had your stuff stolen, watched others hurt by the individual in question, a rather habitual routine of blow-ups, continual, blatant lies being told (about those who have loved and served the person most) and on and on… well it becomes clear why people just want to live a quiet and near-hermit existence far from the crosses associated with such relationships.
A mentality of avoiding and escaping from the presence of troubled people, letting “someone else” deal with them is a common thing. It is indeed part of the reason for attrition rates among leaders in churches and ministries.
The great joy of service is of course being present during some of the victories, healing and grace of change in people’s lives.
What can take a toll and actually works to drive some away from God’s calling on their life is the darkness and personal hurt which is part of the job. It is the worry and struggles that can enter in not only bringing negative affect in the minister’s life but the lives of their spouse and children.
None of this is meant to sound like a violin-and-crybaby routine, I’m simply saying that over my years of personal experience as well as in countless discussions with leaders and former leadership in Christian pastoral, counseling and other ministry areas, these things can take a toll.
For myself? I truly understand the cost and yet cannot simply ignore the call of God to love and serve the “least of these” whomever they may be.
For me it comes down to surrender to the Lord, not salvation by works or trying to impress anybody.
I do indeed deeply appreciate those who serve the most difficult people day-by-day! In His grace, the Lord has given me a number of personal “safety nets” where it’s only now and then I must deal with such troubled folks directly.
The fact is that it’s far more easy to write and sing songs about life than live it side-by-side with messed-up folks.
Only God knows who truly believes. Positive behavioral change? In the end, I would say it’s equally true only God knows who has experienced that! Belonging? Hmmmm…. that has a lot to do with you and I.
In my view, these are things worth considering. Thanks for stopping by!