Time to get real peeps. We suck at love.
We as Christians, as the church, suck at loving people. I’m sorry if I’m being a bit too forward, but I really feel that it’s worth shedding light on.
This week I met with a friend for coffee after our Thursday night church service and it broke my heart for her to tell me that after a month of attending the church, I was the only one who spoke with her that night without being obligated to do so (meaning unless I introduced them). I was the only one to speak with her the first night she came. The following morning I met with another friend who has been attending the same church for approximately two years, give or take, and she shared similar frustrations with me. I must confess that I too have been feeling the same lately.
Honestly, it’s the same story over and over.
Personally, I know that feelings come and go, and this isn’t the first time I’ve felt this and it certainly won’t be the last.
I also know that people are human (shocking, I know). That means that they are not perfect and will fail us, they will let us down, they will hurt us. God is the only one who earns the right for that judgment, and believe it or not, even He will hurt us and disappoint. The hurt comes often when we need healing, and the disappointment comes when our hearts and understanding are not in alignment with His. To quote one of my favorite writers, “Of course he isn’t safe, but he is good.” He is always good.
All that to say, it’s not uncommon that we would feel this way from time to time. And I’m certainly not excluding myself from the problem. I tend to stick to myself or my close friends when I’m at church, and that is because of my insecurity and fears of not being enough. I’m not really sure that the world is much better than loving people either… In some ways I think they are. The reason being that they are hungry for what’s real, they’re hungry for a place to belong, to be loved and accepted for who they are, flaws and all. It’s that hunger that makes some people more honest and more vulnerable. Some people are willing to take the risk to reveal their mess and see who is willing to love them through it. Pay attention. I dare say that people will show you how they want to be loved by how they behave and treat those closest to them. Or they will show you the love they believe they are worthy of. Both are telling. But I digress…
The Bible tells believers that the world will know that we are Disciples of Christ by our love for one another—Not just our love for our close friends, for what credit is there in that? The rest of the world even knows how to do that! This has seriously been convicting me lately. The church was meant to be set apart, to be a haven for the broken and hurting. I have to say, it's not a very inviting place for that if it looks just like any other social gathering. We aren’t being set apart when relationships are surface-level and social media fake, just like everyone else’s. I’m trying to figure out what we have to offer… from the outside looking in, from the perspective of someone who doesn’t know Jesus… they’re looking at His followers. And the resemblance is a bit of stretch. I mean, yes. Of course, we have Jesus to offer. But when our love looks nothing like the love of Christ, why would anyone want it? If that is the example that they see of Jesus from His Bride, why would Jesus be a win? As far as they can tell, they have everything that Christians have in their lives already and religion is just an opiate to console those too weak to bear it on their own.
A couple of years ago I had a mentor speak some insightful and encouraging words into my life. I was depressed and struggling with my living situation at the time. Like I often get when depression hits my life, I felt weak. I felt unworthy of love, unworthy of anyone coming along side me to walk with me through my hell. Her words were a balm. She said, “If the world never sees you weep, if they never see your pain, how will they know you have hope? If all they see if the shiny luster of a perfect, put together life, why should they believe that Jesus has anything to offer them in their own pain? Those watching you will see that you cry, just like them, they will see you afraid and struggling, just like them, yet they will see you rise up above. It is when they see the process or you being real with your pain, and seeing how you cling to Christ, and how His love leads you out of the valley and gives you hope in midst the darkness, then they will believe Jesus is worth it.” I have yet to forget such words.
I will admit that some days it’s easier to put on a fake smile, or tell people I’m okay when I know I’m not. Part of this is because I know 90% of the people who ask you how you’re doing aren’t really wanting an honest answer. Because that too is easier—to play nice rather than actually help carry the burdens of those around us. Maybe there’s even a part of us that aren’t sure we really believe that our God is big enough to help someone when we ourselves can’t. Maybe there’s some out there, like me, who have a hard time believing that we are enough to help someone through their pain. Whatever the reasons, we’ve got to stop.
Surface level relationship will never display God’s glory.
Our pride and unwillingness to take the risk to be vulnerable and to love those around us will never bring healing or breakthrough to the lost and hurting around us.
Our unauthentic behavior within the church will never give those on the outside a glimpse of the hope that we have through our Savior.
We should be offering this and revealing this to the people in our lives that have yet to know such hope. If we are to put Jesus on display in our lives, we have to do more to look like Him.
Stop hiding behind the checklist devotionals and worship music. Stop hiding behind our comfort zones and the things and people that make us feel safe.
Let’s silence ourselves and really hear God’s voice speaking into our hearts and challenging us to change, to heal. No it won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.
Turn off the Netflix, the Facebook, etc and be willing to say no to our friends on occasion, so that we can create a space in our lives for the one relationship that really matters.
Jesus never wanted whitewashed tombs that can quote any bible verse known to man. He wanted a Bride that He could pour His love over and that would love in return. A Bride who is willing to dialogue with Him and know His heart, to be intimately aware of His voice, His presence and His heart for those around us. He wants relationship. Why shouldn’t we give that? Not just to Him, but to the people around us?
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