We took a Love Quiz

ImageWe hold a regular, missonal lunch gathering with our ministry partners called Converge. At one of our recent gatherings, we took a ministry-evaluation quiz based on the theme of Love: being other-centered. Our results were stellar! – mixed. And I think we have a very loving and serving group of people. Yet, when we sat down and just asked ourselves questions about how we take on the responsibility for others on a daily basis, there was a sense of disappointment.

The quiz had 8 questions. All of them dealt with every day rhythms like eating, repairing, helping, feeling responsible for others, discussing time and money, making decisions, and sharing resources. And a few of the responses were simply, “Our Gospel community just doesn’t want to engage with each other, what do we do?” And we talked all about it even though I could sense the frustration, disappointment, and confusion of what to do next.

I know that many who minister with people in community will face this same struggle, so it makes for a great minestrone. Here are 2 fundamental things to keep in mind and heart that will bring delight into your ministry of love toward others:

  1. Model It — A loving gospel community is only loving because its servant-leaders have already known the love of Jesus deeply in their own hearts. There is no. possible. way. that the true Gospel doesn’t get into our hearts and leave us indifferent toward others around us at the same time. Here’s a touch of spice for the minestrone: Christians with no urgency or affection for others are selfish and wasting time. Therefore, a loving gospel community begins with you channeling the love of Jesus for you — right into the lives and families where you live. See Philippians 2:1-4
  2. Intentionalize It — I’m “verbing a noun” here. Intentionalize isn’t in the dictionary but good preachers regularly make up new words and infuse them with meaning, right? (but first, you have to be a good preacher  ;-). I mentioned earlier that the “love questions” on the quiz covered daily life things. And I think that understanding reflects Jesus so much. He walked in towns, sat at meals, built stuff, touched the sick, hugged kids, washed feet, caught fish, and made breakfast for the night crew. God showed us the way to love — ordinary people doing every day things with Gospel intentionality. Jesus said to his often-selfish community, “As I have loved you (washed your feet and all the other daily things for the last 3 years), love one another in the same way.” (John 13). So, intentionalize Jesus right into the middle of your ordinary, daily activity for others.

Warning:  Others will catch this because it’s highly contagious.

Incident, Coincidence, Pattern

Spilled-milk

How do you know when to encourage or confront someone — or both — “encouragingly confront” them? What is a good guideline for how patient we should be with each other in this holiest of minestre called the Church (this new city)? How tolerant should we be when somebody near us makes-a-bigga-messa (or even a little one)?

A number of years ago, I was reading the musings of a Jewish rabbi who was counseling his readers with practical wisdom about how people should respect one another. I wish I had saved the article because one of the first nuggets of wisdom that he gave was for young men to never argue with somebody more than 20 years their senior. This has proven to be good advice in my own life. Apostle Paul said to entreat them as we would a father.

The second golden nugget that has stayed with me and been repeatedly tested is the principle of an incidence vs. a pattern. When someone spills the milk, you have an incident. If later, they spill the milk a second time, that’s a co-incidence. However, if the person wastes a third glass of milk in a relatively brief period of time — that’s a pattern — and you might have to tell them to hold it with both hands. The rabbi’s practical advice was to be patient before responding to determine whether you had an incident on your hands or a developed pattern. When you can determine that there is a destructive or inappropriate habit in a person’s character, then you’re going to need to put it in check.

The wisdom of the axiom is that younger leaders and ministers (and I would include the parenting of children and leading of a home or a position at work) often face the desire to instantly correct something that they perceive is wrong; thus forcing the person to cry over their spilled milk and not helping them by being patient or forming their character. 

This is a general guideline. I understand that there are times where immediate and decisive action must be taken on a discovered incidence (which might already be a hidden pattern) of behavior. I know that there are moments which arrive where we have to warn even against a coincidence (a repeat). At the same time, we need to be careful about how we treat one another in everyday life things. Grudges are often born out of the pettiest of things. We will hear things like, “Do you know what she said about me?”  She said are the operative words there. Is she continually saying? We need to fight-off and dig-out the seeds of resentment and absorb, yea, cover a multitude of incidents with loving patience. Christ is our model and gospel identity our guide.

“Encourage one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today’, that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ…”  Hebrews 3:13-14a

“For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me’.” Romans 15:3