Why Relationships Aren’t To Be Used but Cherished, and Why we Do It

801380_47406908Today I want to talk about the thing that is killing the church. And no it’s not bad theology, or that people don’t read their Bibles enough. These are important, but I think the thing that is killing the church is much more subtle. And it’s this: We use people.

We use people, we see people as leverage, and we see people as a means to our ends. Let me unpack that a little bit because it is important, dare I say critical too.

In essence, I think the trouble with the church is that we don’t love people deeply enough. We love who they can be or what they can do for us, but not who they are right now. We love the fact that they can change this light fixture, run this program, or give to this ministry. But do we simply first and foremost love them for who they are, before they contribute or do anything? Do we love them because they are worth loving?

And this is a subtle thing but a really key thing. Because we are called to love people where they are at, and not for what they can do, or even who they can become.

And this issue has even infected and affected our evangelism. Evangelism is literally sharing the good news about Jesus. This is a beautiful thing. But here is what can subtly happen – we make friends with them so they can come to know Jesus, and share Jesus with them. Rather than making friends because we think they are worth loving and caring.

And this happens all the time, and people see it, feel it, and know it. If you are nice to neighbors just so they will come to church, or come to know Jesus that’s just down-right wrong.

Yes I said wrong, and here is why. Because in that situation we are loving and caring for our neighbors just for our own agenda (going to church or accepting Jesus). Is that agenda good? Absolutely I believe deeply in the church and think Jesus is the hope of the world. But, and here is the kicker, it is still an agenda, even though it’s a good one. But love cares for people without an agenda. You don’t love your kids so that they will accept Jesus (but of course you pray they will). You love your kids because they are worth loving – and we need to live that way with everyone. People can know and sense if we love them, or if we love the “future them” they can become. But that’s using people, and not loving people. To love people you need to love who they are – right here and right now. God moves always in the present, and love is grounded in the present.

Andrew Root puts it this way:

Relationships in ministry are so significant not for what they get us but because they become the concrete yet mysterious places where the divine and human come together. Andrew Root

So what if we stop approaching the people in our church, our neighborhoods, or our community for what they can do for us – or for what we think is best for them. What if we love them where they are at, no agendas or strings attached, knowing that in that place Jesus is moving. What if we deeply practice love and just see what Jesus will do in and through that? Do I pray and hope that my friends and neighbors come to know Jesus – absolutely. He’s the biggest change in my life, and the reason I live my life the way I do. But I love my friends and neighbors first for who they are – people worth loving – and not for who they might become or do for me. And that small difference, makes all the difference.

In short, what I’m trying to say is this: relationships are to be cherished, not to be used. And I think this is something the church needs to learn if it is going to thrive. You know if someone loves you or what they can do for you. And that one subtle difference is something; the difference between a life-giving relationship, and a shallow fake relationship. And if the church is about anything it’s about deep relationships with each other, the world, and most of all, God. So let’s learn to love without an agenda.

Cliched or Not it’s True : We All Need Each Other

1103018_28726094This week at church we are going to look at a clichéd statement that is absolutely true. We are going to look at this statement, “We need each other”.

Unfortunately this is something that is said all over the place. It’s said in companies, in advertising, in banks, in schools, in communities, and it’s applied to almost every situation. I’m not bemoaning that fact but sometimes when something becomes ubiquitous it also becomes meaningless.

Well come Sunday we want to restore some of the depth to that statement, “We need each other”. Because the truth is that statement is incredibly Biblical. There are over 50 references to “one another” statements in the Bible. Statements that direct us to the fact that we need each other, that we need one another, that we cannot get through life alone.

And this is so true, and obvious, but it is something we often fail to actually live out. So often when we are in difficulty and we do need others, it’s the time we shut others out. So often we get so busy that our commitment to “each other” is to pray for them when we happen to think of it; rather than deeply committing to another person and to journey with them.

So that’s what we are looking at on Sunday, the story of Ruth, and the power of journeying with someone.

But before we get there why not spend some time reflecting. Who has journeyed in your life that changed you? Who committed to you and changed you because of that commitment? Why not thank them, and then ask God this radical question that we will explore on Sunday: who should you be committing to?