I love images that tell a story and this drawing shows a difficult discussion in progress. We have to have difficult discussions sometimes, don’t we? Learning how to communicate effectively especially during stormy seasons is important. You see furrowed brows, genuine interest and patience as one listens intently to what the other is saying, the kindness of the hand on the shoulder while one is calmly expressing something that is a concern to the two hearing, and you see one bowing in prayer with an outward expression of self soothing. We want to be heard. We need to be understood. And we all need grace. Only through this kind of discussion do we reach understanding. Even if we don’t agree in the end we can agree to disagree and move on together.
Leading in this time has brought challenges I never anticipated. One that Holy Spirit has been working me through is trying harder to see others as God sees them and act accordingly. We always see things others do clearer than what we do, right? When I’m in a group and see something that’s troubling, I turn to the mirror to ask, “am I guilty of the same”? Am I quarrelsome? What is God speaking to my heart, what is the lesson in that moment?
THE BACK STORY Imagine being in a meeting with other leaders. We’re focusing on defining our mission in an unprecedented time. The meeting was centered around a book and discussing the enlightening aspects therein. It was a wonderful break from the everyday stressors. So needed was the easy giggle and smiles all around as we dreamed about how we are blessed to be leading in a time of important transition! And we ARE so blessed! Spirit is moving! This is great! The challenge must be an indication of the victory to come! Right? I was enjoying it very much. Then it happened, that thing that seems to happen too often. The discussion was hijacked and downgraded to politics and assigning winners and losers.
We were no longer leaders. We were sheep in need of a shepherd.
How can you effectively lead diverse individuals together if you secretly (or outwardly and verbally) have contempt for certain ones? The short answer is you can’t. Jesus had no contempt for people the “good” people felt contempt for. Jesus didn’t think sin was okay, but he loved on the sinners. Jesus was 100% human and 100% divine and the divinity part would not allow him to view any of God’s children as anything less than what they were created to be, despite their record. I think it’s because he had an inkling that they were created on purpose for a purpose and they all have value and worth and promise. (Can I view the person challenging me today the same way?) Well, there’s no way Jesus would have made it to the cross if he viewed everyone he encountered through a limited human lens with filters of our own creation, biases, and those imposed by societal norms. That’s how I feel, anyway.
So, would I be reluctant to pick up my cross and carry it to wherever it leads IF I view everyone the same way Jesus does? Makes me think.
Parents love their children even though they may misbehave. Even the really really tough days when they looked you square in the eye and said, “I hate you!” Do we stop loving them or cease knowing all the great qualities they possess and the awesome potential? Do we abandon the work we are called to which is to pour into them ongoing, so they can decide to have a relationship with Christ for themselves? Of course not. We call it unconditional love because that’s what it is. We want that from others because it is a great thing! Do we make the same effort offering unconditional love to those who do not share our viewpoint? (Disclaimer: We must attain and retain healthy boundaries, as we are not doormats or “convenience stores” of life. Talking about the everyday interactions with other humans here.)
It was sad to see what began as a wonderful, and soul feeding time of fellowship devolve in this way. But it was also a cry for help. The hate I felt coming at me was palpable. It was a cry for help. Every time I’m disturbed like this it ends up being a topic of study for a long time, because I know God is teaching me in that moment that there’s a lesson to be mastered. And this is where we begin.
Faith fundamentals can be tough to master at a time of chaos. The temptation to ignore what you should do because what you want to do can be strong. It goes much deeper than the fluffy “be kind”. You can fake kind. People fake kind all the time, sometimes to get extra credit from their friends who think it’s amazing how “kind” they were to that person who clearly doesn’t deserve it. It can be satisfying to be fake kind. Because of what you get out of it. But what did the receiver of the fake kind get? Fake help? Fake assurance? Fake comfort?
The fundamental here is, you can’t fake “love your neighbor”. Not well, anyway. And if I am going to lead by example in that kind of deeper unconditional love, it’s going to cost me something. It might be the respect of someone whose opinion I value. It might be time. It might be treasure. It might be talent. But God has taught me over and over the greater the cost, the greater the value to the kingdom of God. Why, when I know the eventual outcome whether I see it or not will be amazing, do I still hesitate sometimes?
Difficult discussions need to be had and our readiness effects not only the outcome, but the process and all involved. Every occasion is an opportunity. All involved deserve our genuine, Christ centered love. Fake kind will not do.
I have to make the decision every day, sometimes several times, to view others through my very limited scope – or – let go and allow God to show me who they were created to be. Even if it takes a while. I’m still learning and getting better day by day and still get it wrong sometimes. But it’s SO worth it!
This process has allowed me to walk away from a difficult discussion feeling more like the presence of Jesus kept me steady. There was a lot less searching for words. A lot more peace.
Take another go through the passage.
2 Timothy 2:23-26 The Message
Run away from childish indulgence. Run after mature righteousness—faith, love, peace—joining those who are in honest and serious prayer before God. Refuse to get involved in inane discussions; they always end up in fights. God’s servant must not be argumentative, but a gentle listener and a teacher who keeps cool, working firmly but patiently with those who refuse to obey. You never know how or when God might sober them up with a change of heart and a turning to the truth, enabling them to escape the Devil’s trap, where they are caught and held captive, forced to run his errands.
What wisdom do you glean from it that speaks to your heart today?
For me, it is “not today, Satan! Not today.”