Learning how to love (well) is our vision statement, or theme, for this year. This post will outline some of the practical skills in our quest for an authentic Christian spirituality…
Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.” Matt 22:37-40 (MSG)
“Love reveals the beauty of another person to themselves” –Jean Vanier, friend and mentor of Henri Nouwen
- Loving well is the essence of true spirituality – and the culmination of our focus on emotional health from a biblical perspective.
- Loving well involves authentic interaction (or communication) with God, with ourselves, and with other people.
- Jesus epitomized – and modeled spiritual and emotional health for us.
- The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were not able to make the same connection with people as Jesus did. They were competent, diligent, zealous, they were absolutely committed to having God as the Lord of their lives…they memorized entire books of the OT, they prayed five times a day, they faithfully tithed off all their increase — plus gave money to the poor, and they evangelized – yet there is little evidence that they delighted in people.
“The WORD became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes.” John 1:14, MSG
The word incarnate come from a Latin word that means: in-flesh. The infinite Creator and Sustainer of the universe limited himself to the confines of human history and a human body.
Today the incarnated presence of God is intended to be the Church – identified in the Bible as the Body of Christ –you and me.
1. Enter another’s world. James 1:19; Philippians 2:5-8
Understand [this], my beloved brethren. Let every [person] be quick to hear [a ready listener], slow to speak, slow to take offense and to get angry. James 1:19 (AMP)
- What does it mean to enter “another’s” world? It means to be fully present with another person.
To care means, first of all, to be present for each other. –Henri Nouwen
- Put your own agenda on hold
- Look people in the eye
- Practice reflective listening: Allow the other person to speak until their thought is completed and then try and restate their thoughts in your own words
- Don’t try to fix people.
- Be cognizant of body-language (only 10% of communication is verbal)
- Validate people’s feelings. We can validate without being in agreement. (Feelings are neither right, nor wrong, they just are.)
- Try not to become defensive…
2. Hold on to your world. Ephesians 2:10; John 15:15
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created we anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for we long ago. Eph 2:10, (NLT)
In EHC Pete Scazzero states that this dynamic (holding on to our world) is the most difficult and challenging principle to apply. He asserts…
“It is the key to conflict resolution. It is the key to responding in a mature loving way when other people push and challenge your desires, values, and goals inside or outside the church. It is the key to serving as a leader, in any capacity…Without this ability to hold on to yourself, it is not possible to be an imaginative, creative leader who breaks from the status quo and leads people to new places.” (p. 185)
What does it mean to “hold on to your world”?
- Recognize that we almost always have a choice. (The choice often involves choosing between “peacekeeper” or “peacemaker.”) Peacemakers create false peace.
- Holding on to your world: Determine and set clear boundaries…
- Identify and be clear about your limits. Don’t allow people to make demands of you. Allow people to make requests, but not demands. If you hear a request that makes you uncomfortable, your discomfort may be a signal that this is an attempt to invade your boundaries.
- Learn to say The Graceful “NO.”
- “Good boundaries attract good friends.”
3. Live in the tension of both. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7; Matthew 22:37-40
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 1 Cor 13:4-7
- Living in the tension of another’s world and your own world happens when we are willing to authentically connect with people across our differences. Civil, or respectful, dialogue
- The space between ourselves and another person is to be considered sacred space.
- When authentic, incarnational Christian love, or spirituality, is released in a relationship God’s presence is manifest.
- When we ignore conflict we create a false peace. Jesus was murdered because He disrupted the false peace all around him. True peacemaking disrupts the false peace.
- We cannot have true peace in the Church, or society, with pretense and façade.