Tagged: Reciprocity

The church needs more attitude…

Romans 12:16 Be of the same mind toward one another…

Romans 15:5 Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus…

It happens more and more. My wife and I will turn to each other with the same thoughts — and often the same words on our lips — at the same time! After years of loving together we often can anticipate what the other is thinking or feeling.

Did you know church is to be like that? As we come together for a common purpose to exalt Christ in our lives, we will find ourselves experiencing a oneness of thought and mission. We should work at achieving oneness (Romans 12:16), but Paul later adds that we should ask God to give us a sameness of mind (Romans 15:5). So we should work for unity — but we should also ask for it in prayer.

Then where do church conflicts come from? Pride. And pride is a state of mind that flourishes in a climate of putting down the ideas of others and exalting our views.

Can we disagree and still “be of the same mind”? Yes, but only if we assume a fundamental respect for the motives of others who — like us — belong to the family of God. Our oneness lies in a common motive to please God — not in agreement on every issue or scruple.

So how can we be “of the same mind” towards one another? Assume an attitude that every other believer has equal access to God — just like you. Therefore, their thoughts are as potentially inspired and significant as your own. No one has a corner on the market of “divine insights”. I must humble myself to consider with care the thoughts of my brother. I need to listen. I need to pay attention. What he is thinking may match or enhance what I am thinking — I need to respect his conclusions and rationale.

“The same mind” does not refer to agreement in all things, but to an attitude.

The Power of a Greeting

Romans 16:16 Greet one another with a holy kiss.
1 Corinthians 16:20 Greet one another with a holy kiss.
2 Corinthians 13:12 Greet one another with a holy kiss.
1 Thessalonians 5:26 Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss.
1 Peter 5:14 Greet one another with a kiss of love.

Do you remember your first kiss? Sure you do! What makes it so special? What is it about a kiss that so captures the imagination and heart of our culture?

Let me suggest that with a kiss we are communicating our affection and acceptance of another person. Intimacy. Warmth. With just a kiss.

Every culture has a way of doing that, but we have done it for centuries with a kiss. Two millennia have not altered the basic message. Paul wants us to greet one another with the highest form of affection.

How can we do this today?

(1) Determine to take every instance of greeting seriously – Paul is really issuing a command to obey. Greeting one another is a non-optional activity. So we ought to carefully reflect on how we normally greet others. We should avoid simple protocol greetings when possible — let’s get real!

(2) Take the focus off yourself and place it on the other person – Think about the kind of recognition you would want to receive. Think about the times when a poor greeting was hurtful to you.

(3) Learn and use a person’s name in your greeting – Think of the other person as family. Knowing and using a name is a measure of a person’s significance to you. Paul greeted no less than 25 persons by name in Romans 16 in a city he had never visited! Names are vital.

(4) Bless the person with affirmation and interest – “Pause” for the person as you greet them. Acknowledge enduring qualities you appreciate about them. Ask them genuine, probing questions. Introduce them to others with words of affirmation.

(5) And yes – do use an appropriate physical expression of affection – Paul stresses use of the “holy kiss” — please understand that he was referring to greetings between the same sexes! While the function of greeting never changes, but the physical form may vary from culture to culture. Whether it’s a warm handshake and a hug, a squeeze of a shoulder or arm, or a simple pat on the back – we must not offend or tempt others with the physical form of our greeting. But don’t be afraid to display warm affection.

How to “Choose Up Sides” in Church

Romans 15:7 Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.

It’s happening on playgrounds all around our country today… and it happens in churches too. Groups get ready to choose up sides and someone is chosen last. “Arrrggghhh!” as Charlie Brown used to say — what a terrible feeling to be unwanted and unwelcomed.

Paul says we are to “receive one another” — I do it for you and you do it for me. In the New Testament this means:

  1. to take or receive someone/something to oneself, to admit, or to receive;
  2. to take someone aside for a private conversation; or
  3. to welcome/accept someone as a close friend.

And Paul says I am to do this “as Christ received” me! In Him I find what many spend a lifetime searching for: someone who will “choose me” every time. Someone who treats me like I am His favorite. Someone who does not allow disagreements or barriers to create distance between us. Someone who isn’t preoccupied with himself or his needs — but who has time to listen to me. Someone I do not have to be afraid of. Someone whose motives are genuine — He will not use me and then lose me.

How can I do that for someone else? If Jesus accepts me, I can afford to give to others without expecting a return on my investment. After all, He gave all for me — with no cost to me, but at great cost to Himself. I can set my heart to be like Jesus to others.

  • I can trust that God is at work in every person I encounter. I can look for the hand of God in every heart — that qualifies a person to be treated with care by me. I can place my faith in God’s working, not in people — they will let me down, but if God is at work in them… I think I can be willing to be hurt by those I accept.
  • I can act as if all conditions for intimacy were already fulfilled. I don’t have to make people earn my acceptance or love.
  • I can cover areas of offense or disagreement with love.
  • I can ask questions to know people on the deepest level. I can avoid the superficial encounters.
  • I can take people to others and introduce them — facilitating their acceptance into a group.
  • I can talk about people to others and tell their story.
  • I can be intentional about including others in the ministry of my church by giving them a job to do — so they will gain a sense of belonging.

I suspect most of us feel like the kid on the playground that never gets picked to play. Remember today that Jesus always chooses you — so now you go choose someone else. Go ahead — you’re already on the best team! Make a difference — welcome someone into your life with warmth and affection.

The Art of Pausing for People

1 Corinthians 11:33 Therefore, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another.

1 Peter 3:8 Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous…

Do you remember rushing to get the best place in the lunch line as a kid? Do you still see that behavior during morning rush hour? I do… and sometimes it’s me trying to get that “vital” space ahead of someone else. It’s stupid.

In Corinth, Paul learned believers were eating up the potluck dishes before others arrived. How rude! Yet it was being done with relish! (no pun intended) Paul directed the Corinthians to “wait for one another”. And Peter elaborates on this idea by encouraging his readers to “be tenderhearted, be courteous”.

But this outward courtesy begins in the heart. Peter tells us to have “compassion for one another”. This simply means to “feel together” in a mutual way.

Do you have feelings when you hear of pain in a brother’s life? If so, what do you feel? In church I hear often of the pains and difficulties of others — and I fear it is way too easy to become “numb” to the hurts of others.

Could I “wait” on a brother or sister today? When confronted with another’s needs, will I pause… really bring a full stop to my forward movement… to think how he/she must feel before I rush ahead with the meeting of my own agenda for the day?

Esteem

Philippians 2:3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.

The man was seen on national television by millions each week. Bill had acted in 25 feature films with superstars. He made more money in a month than I made in two years. He was continuously reading scripts on upcoming film roles and commercials — he was a success by every material definition. And I was sitting in his dressing room on the backlot of a major studio.

For two years Bill had been attending our worship services in Beverly Hills, California. He would come in and sit in the back, slipping out during the last song to avoid talking with church members or pastors — he was painfully shy! He had recently committed his life to Christ. I called him to see if we could place him in a service role in the church — due to his shooting schedule he apologetically asked if I could drop by his dressing room on the studio lot. “Sure!” I said.

Bill was overwhelmed that I would take time out of my busy schedule to come see him at work! He hated to bother me, but was willing to serve if we had a place for him. I was dumbstruck by his attitude, which was absolutely void of pretense or condescension. He felt unworthy to do what we wanted him to do. He valued highly his relationships with others in the church — some wealthy, some on welfare — it didn’t matter. In his mind they were light years ahead of him in their walk with God.

I left the studio with a sense of brokenness that afternoon. Bill valued my position as a child of God more than I did. He greatly honored and treasured his church family. He truly “esteemed others better than himself.”

Submission

Ephesians 5:19-21 …submitting to one another in the fear of God.

1 Peter 5:5 …all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”

Submission. What images come to mind when you think of this word? Are any of them positive? In our culture we value independence and self-preservation — submission is viewed as destructive to our personal worth. Submission exposes us to abuse. It is demeaning.

Yet Paul and Peter direct us to submit ourselves to each other. Far from being destructive, submission to my brothers and sisters is a pathway to an increase of God’s grace in my life and the growth of His church.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes, “It is the picture of soldiers in a regiment, soldiers in a line under an officer. The characteristic of a man in that position is this, that he is no longer an individual; he is now a member of a regiment; and all of them together are listening to the commands and the instructions which the officer is issuing to them.”

In a war there is no safe place for self-seeking, individualistic soldiers on the front line. Not only will the individual be in danger — but so will the entire company! We are called to submerge self-interest in a pursuit of the highest good for others. That’s why we are here. That is our mission. That’s why we are told to submit “in the fear of God” — not to do so is a denial of His purpose for our lives.

So what does it look like when I do this “submission”? Paul prefaces the command to mutually submit with these directions…

  • to daily let God control my decisions, actions, and speech — His Spirit will guide my “submission” in serving others in my church family (Ephesians 5:18);
  • to engage in meaningful, heart-felt worship with other Christians — with a focus on encouraging others in their efforts to live for God (Ephesians 5:19); and
  • to maintain a sense that all I am and all I have is a gift from God — to be continually conscious of what He has done for me in Christ (Ephesians 5:20).

Think about it. If you are seeking God’s rule in your life, why wouldn’t I take care to listen to what you have to say? If you are trying to encourage my walk with God, why wouldn’t I try to encourage you in return? If I am daily conscious of the cross (where Jesus gave His life for me), how could I do less than lay down my life for you? If I have already been given everything I really need, why would I try to get more at your expense?

The implications are endless, but the point is clear: when I have found all my joy in Christ, I am free to serve you. You can come first. I no longer have to look out for “number one”!

One more thing… what about abuse? What about occasions where we are asked to do what is sinful or illegal? Submission does not mean we should commit sin, facilitate the sinful behavior of others, or compromise our faith. On those occasions we must stand firm with grace, kindness, a quickness to listen, and in the Spirit — but we cannot participate in evil.

Bearing the Unbearable

Ephesians 4:2 …with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love…

Colossians 3:13 …bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.

Ephesians 4:32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

A grandmother celebrating her golden wedding anniversary, once told the secret of her long and happy marriage. “On my wedding day, I decided to make a list of ten of my husband’s faults which, for the sake of our marriage, I would overlook,” she said.
A guest asked the woman to share what some of the faults she listed. She replied, “To tell you the truth, I never did get around to listing them. But whenever my husband did something that made me hopping mad, I would say to myself: Lucky for him that’s one of the ten!”
“To bear” with someone literally means “to hold one’s self up”. I shouldn’t react to irritation or provocation, rather I am to wait patiently until the problem has passed. Can I do this in my own strength? Perhaps, but not without physical or emotional consequences to myself.
Paul is not directing us to simply “suck it up” and “gut it out” when someone offends us; we are to bring positive responses to the relationship. Paul encourages us to bear with one another in a way that is marked by humility, gentleness, love, kindness, tenderness, and forgiveness! What an awesome assignment!
How can I do this? Paul answers “even as Christ forgave you, so you must also do” and “even as God in Christ forgave you.” These phrases remind me that God’s forgiveness of my sin is:
  • Undeserved – I really offended God. Forgiveness was granted to me when I deserved punishment. He could have “chewed” me out and been absolutely right to do it –but He didn’t do it to me — and I shouldn’t do it to a brother or sister who sets me off.
  • Unrestricted – He included each and every offense in His forgiveness of me. He never says “that’s it, I’ve had enough! I’ve had all I can stand!”
  • Unending – He never changes His resolve to forgive. I am not forgiven, then later reminded of all the things He has overlooked. He will not give forgiveness then retrieve it at some time in the future.
Only the Spirit of God can empower me to do this with others. Since He has the willingness to do this for me — I should stand ready to do this for the ones who offend and wound me in my world.
Like the grandmother in our story, I can decide ahead of time that every offense made against me is already on the list – “one of the ten!”