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Part of the Whole

If I am energized by the interactions with those on a similar trajectory to mine, who are increasingly seeing their daily need for a redeemer and finding a Redeemer who meets that need, I am similarly “shut down” by interactions that not only lack this but are filled with judgmental characterizations, authoritatively expressed opinions and personal preferences. These interaction are framed by a general point of view that I am at the center of my story and I ought to be at the center of your story as well. Just this morning I was guilty of this latter role, which is probably part of what left me rattled. It was more than just my need for my friend to “get me”, though that is always present, but I apparently had a high demand that we share a common world view and theology and application of the two. When it was clear that we didn’t, or at least weren’t really connecting in the way I needed for us to do, the whole thing left me shaken. By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 1 Cor. 3:10-11 I didn’t go into the time together wanting to see Jesus more clearly but wanting my friend to see me more clearly. When I am not seen clearly, or if I can’t “see” my friend or neighbor or family member clearly, I am shaken because I began building on the wrong foundation for our relationship. My high need to be aligned in perspective even if different in application replaces a deep abiding trust that Jesus is at work in both of our lives doing what He needs to do for His Kingdom, not what I want done for mine or my rendition of His. This is very hard. There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. 1 Cor. 12:4-6 Since childhood, I have wanted everyone around me to “learn” what God is teaching me at a given moment. If I am having an “Aha!” moment, I assume it would be just as eye opening for the person next to me, but the truth is, it probably won’t be. It probably won’t be because God is training me, teaching me, shaping me, growing me for one service to His Kingdom and the person next to me for another. His Kingdom is huge and the redemptive work to be done is extensive. The same God is at work in all of His people but the works He is doing through them are varied. My position in relationships, then, shouldn’t be to demand we both be shaped identically for the same exact service but to enter with eyes wide open to learn about what He is doing throughout His Kingdom, throughout His body and through all His varied instruments of grace. So, there is much work in my own heart still to be done on this front. Just knowing the error of my approach doesn’t guarantee a healthy engagement in my next relational interaction. But it is a starting point. It still leaves the distress of the other person’s demand that I similarly conform to his or her particularly gifting, training and perspective. And that is just it: when we discover our paths are quite different, our enthusiasm sparked by totally separate areas of God’s Kingdom, our “training” focusing our eyes toward goals that appear distant from one another, an odd yet condemnation hangs in the air. It feels as if one of us must be moving in the wrong direction, motivated by the wrong impulses or participating in the wrong mission. Because, after all, if all of our lifeblood is being devoted to one calling so distinct from the other, what energy or even interest remains for the one not set before us? For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. Romans 12:4-5 What if His justification of me in the person and work of Jesus would free me from needing to be justified by my friends’ enthusiasm for my particular function? How much better could I love others and be genuinely excited about their varied interests and trajectories if it was the person and work of Jesus being celebrated and focused upon rather than my own? What if my satisfaction and peace in time with others rested less on sameness and commonality and more on the sure foundation of Jesus as the author and perfecter of faith and the very capable, reliable and effective head of the body? Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Eph. 4:2-6

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