relational over relatable.

Last night I stumbled across a blog post written by a girl filled with wisdom beyond her years. I was filled with conviction when she talked about our motives for sharing the gospel or for sharing what God has done in our lives. I am going to be real, there is an ongoing battle within me that fights daily over pointing others to who I am rather than pointing others to who Christ is. I know who wins in the end, but honestly, I find that when I am ministering to people, instead of seeking to meet them where they are at, and showing them the love of Christ, I try to find the similarities that we share, and make them more like Jessie Childs rather than like Jesus Christ. Who am I that I should make myself some sort of standard for people to meet? Yes, I am called to be an example to others of who Christ is, but I am not Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Yes, I am striving every day to become more like Christ, but that is an unachievable goal while living on this Earth, though it does not mean that I do not continue to try. As I strip down to the core of my being, deep down my heart yearns for a relatable world far more than a relational world. The majority of the time my soul wants to just focus on changing people, instead of being compassionate, carrying their burdens with them, and just simply loving them. But we were never called to be the ones who make people change, and we were never called to rest in the belief that the world would be so much more beautiful if it looked identical to us.

The work that is done in a person’s heart that brings them to change belongs to God alone. In 1 Corinthians 3:6-7 Paul says, “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”. Let me say it again, GOD causes the growth. There is nothing good within us, and if there is nothing good within us then how could we ever say or do anything that would cause someone’s heart to awaken to the truth of the gospel? For 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 says, “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God”. God uses our weakness to bring him glory, for even in our lowest points he shows that He is sovereign. Therefore anything good that comes from us, truly only comes from the Spirit of God that lives within us. For without Him we can do nothing.

Just as Romans 12:6 reminds us, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us,” which can also lead us to the truth that we all have different sin. Yet all sin is the same in the eyes of the Father, none is greater or lesser. Our hearts are still just as broken and our sin, just as deep as those who sit beside us but our sin looks different. Imagine yourself going into a hospital and looking in all the rooms, you see many hurting people. One man is dying of old age, another has cancer seizing every crevice of their being, and yet another person lays in unfamiliar sheets due to reoccurring heart attacks. You wouldn’t sit there and weigh each person’s pain. They all hurt, but just because it is different doesn’t take away from the magnitude and affect it has on the person. It is the same way with our sin. We are in need of grace and healing, but for each of us the place in which we need it differs. And that’s okay.

Too often, we forget our own weaknesses and the grace God has poured out on us to cover those. We cast shame on one another because the other person struggles with something you think you would never be tempted to do, or something you have already overcome, and you have already forgotten the difficult journey you took to get to the place of healing and peace you reside in. We need to become a people of God who remember what it means to really love someone. We give up too easily. We get hurt, or they get too complicated, or messy and we just throw our hands in the air and walk away. If God did that to me every time I turned into an emotional wreck of depression, anxiety, and anger, I would be hopelessly lost. I can think of many people who just gave up on me when I needed them the most. I can even think of people I have given up on or even considered detaching myself from, just because the relationship got to be taxing on my soul. That is not love. Love is not a feeling, for those are fleeting. Love is holding on, even when it is hard. Love is a choice. Some days it it harder to choose than others, but none the less you must continue to choose, for God has never stopped choosing us.

I can also think of a friend who has exemplified for me what it means to love someone through every aspect of life and season of emotion. She loved me when I woke up every morning with a frustration I could not explain and I took out my anger on her, she held me while tears poured over my broken, heavy heart, and she asked me how I was doing in the midst of her worst days. She has sat through minutes of silence while I tried to find the words to express the complex, contradictory emotions that were warring inside my mind. She knows more about my weaknesses than anyone, and knows all about the addictions that kept trying to drag me down and were hard to finally reveal. She knows where I fail, but she also knows where I am strong, and has encouraged me and reminded me of who I am. She does not allow me to sit in the dirt and wallow in my sin and brokenness, but like Jesus does, she picks me up, and tells me to keep going. She tells me that my mistakes do not define me, and that the fact that I struggle with my sin rather than complacently deal with it, shows that I am not satisfied with living in my filth. Over and over again she has reminded me what it means to love like Christ does, to pour out grace and mercy for as long as it takes, to stick by a person, and speak wisdom and truth into their soul to bring the freedom and healing they need.

Many of the things I shared with her, were things I had never before uttered into the light of day. And never once has she made me feel shame for the sins I have committed. She reminds me that no matter what I have done, I am redeemed and Christ says that I am worthy. She could not minister to me, if her sole purpose was to make some sort of connection for her own good, she ministered to me because her purpose was to connect me with the Father and who he says I am. She was not trying to make me more like her. She was not forcing me to hurry up and get over my problems. She understood that healing takes time, and love is a process, not a moment. She did not try to change me. She spoke truth, and allowed God to change me. Because that job belongs to Him, and Him alone.

Surround yourselves with people who are not afraid to call you out with love. Proverbs 27:5-6 says, “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy”. I would much rather have a friend that tells me I am being prideful, rude, or selfish, than have a “friend” who just smiles in my face and just deals with my imperfections. I desire a friend who tears me down to lift me higher, a friend who sharpens me by putting me through the fire, but encourages me the whole way. Those are actions that at first you probably would not like when you actually experience them, but later on you will appreciate the people who told you the truth, not those who just stood by quietly while your character and integrity diminished.

I have hope that this message is penetrating your heart the way it has mine. When you are ministering to someone, or just simply speaking to someone, ask yourself, what is your motive? Are your words of advice just a facade for stroking your own ego or are you seeking to love the person in the way God tells you to? You may think you are loving those that are closest to you, but if you don’t understand what it really means to love, how can you be? Learn to love with everything inside of you. Pour the love Christ has birthed inside of you into the deep abysses of people’s darkness. Don’t settle for giving second-rate love. Give the first and the best of your love to the Father, and then to all of His people.

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good” Romans 12:9

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