When is the last time you looked at someone you despise (because, let’s admit it: you don’t like everyone) and was able to pick out characteristics in them that remind you of God?
I was asked this about some people in my life who hurt me, and I really struggled: It’s easy to find things about a person we don’t like, but what about things we like about them? Better yet, what are some things in them that remind me of God?
Being able to say, “I see God in you” has impacted my relationships with those I struggle with. I’m now able to say to them: “You are very creative. It reminds me of God.” “You are outgoing. It reminds me of God’s boldness.” “The way you love people reminds me of God.” It has radically impacted relationships…and even if they don’t appreciate the comment, it helps my heart to focus on these things.
Let’s expand here and think outside our “enemies.” When is the last time you encouraged a friend, telling them you see the Lord in them? For me, almost never. When a friend told me how I remind her of God, it only confirmed what I was learning: It changes people when they hear how they relate to the Creator of the universe.
So here is your homework for this week: Focus on a few people in your life–at least one friend and one not-so-much–and tell them what you see in them that reminds you of God. What message is more powerful than that?
It’s okay to go to church to see your friends.
I’ve always been told this is the wrong reason to want to go. I always told people it was the wrong reason.
But then it hit me.
Why else go?
You can pray at home.
You can worship at home.
You can read scriptures at home.
You can listen to a preacher at home.
You can grow closer to God at home.
Church isn’t for any of these things. Yes, these things happen. Yes, they are a part of it. But going to church is about meeting with a community of believers to do these things and so much more. And going to church isn’t the end of it…God calls us to live in community with His believers 24/7. That means calling, meeting, and praying with and for one another. And the church should end up being a place to see your most dear friends.
That is what church is about.
This weekend I met with my mentor. And I always have to blog afterwards.
I was meeting my mentor at Dairy Queen, because one of the girls I spent a lot of one-on-one discipleship with at the last church I served at worked there, and I was in town visiting people. As I was standing there waiting for Lydia (my mentor) to arrive, I thought about how funny it was that Mackenzie (the young lady I was invested in) had no idea of the impact Lydia has made on her life. I told Lydia this, and she told me that she recently went to her mentor’s wedding and met her mentor’s mentor and was thinking the same thing. So now Mackenzie has four generations of mentors accounted for above her. I told Mackenzie, and she kind of shrugged it off (I mean, she’s 16 and was at work) but I think she thought it was pretty cool.
Visiting my college town the weekend before their classes started was strange for me. I drove past a campus event, and looked out at all the fresh faces. It was so strange to be around during freshmen orientation, and not have any “plan” or even excitement about the possibilities of investing in futures students… but I realized that’s why I discipled new students, so they could disciple the next line of students, and so on and so forth.
This is discipleship: equipping disciples to disciple. We are called to be students and teachers at the same time. When you think about the people you are investing in, think about the opportunities they have to invest in others! The thought is exciting! I think about the students I mentor, and how they have friends, siblings, coworkers, even parents that they can invest in and bring truth to. When you invest in one person, you literally have access to investing into the world. Bam. Exciting.
The other day I saw an article about Westboro Church protesting at Elizabeth Taylor’s funeral. Why? Because she is an AIDS activist and friend to gays.
This post is not about Westboro. Not about Elizabeth Taylor. Not about homosexuality. Not about AIDS activism. I have plenty to say about each. What this post is about is friendship.
When I saw this, I tweeted (5 tweets long!): “Westboro is protesting Elizabeth Taylor’s funeral b/c she was an AIDS activist & friend to gays. Really?! they’d be at mine too then.We are to produce fruit. What does that look like? Loving people, relationships w/ the scorned. Not hating people who are sinful. Remember: we ALL started out as depraved. Incapable of knowing good. You, by showing them goodness, could be helping 2 show grace too. In fact, if all your friendships are “easy”, it’s time to find new friends. Refer to the beatitudes for a few suggestions ;) Okay, off my theological #soapbox. My best friendships r the 1s I have to work at. That’s where the fruit’s at. Youthpastors should agree :)”
That’s kind of the sum of this post, but I’m going to elaborate:
Christians are called to love–not just other Christians, but our enemies, the poor, sinners, your neighbors, everybody. It’s not in our job description to hate or condemn. It’s just not. Elizabeth Taylor was in trouble with those who claim to be followers of the same Jesus Christ who said all this for two reasons: being a friend of sinners and being an activist for the diseased. I remember that my Jesus in the Bible were both those things.
It’s so easy to be safe in our Christian bubble–go to a Christian school in a Christian community with Christian friends and work with Christians in a Christian church. But that is tooooooooooooo easy. Fruit may come out of that, but not the best kind of fruit. Apples might get produced, but what about something more exotic? Something rarer? Sweeter? Papaya? :) (sometimes I think I’m hilarious)
If you want fruit to come out of your relationships, maybe you should seek out relationships that are harder–friendships with non-Christians? Friendships with the ignored? Friendships with those who are hurting and depressed? Or how about loving your enemies and treating them as if they aren’t your enemies? It’s difficult.
And I’m not perfect at this…in fact, quite the opposite. I’m the type of person where if a relationship isn’t easy, I abandon it. But what kind of fruit does that produce? What could have happened with some of my relationships if I had worked at it instead of deciding it wasn’t worth anything?