It’s been said that loving well is the essence of true spirituality. Loving well involves authentic interaction (or communication) with God, with ourselves, and with other people.
“Love reveals the beauty of another person to themselves” –Jean Vanier, friend and mentor of Henri Nouwen
Jesus epitomized – and modeled spiritual and emotional health for us.
[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)
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were not able to make the same connection with people as he 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 Hebrew Scriptures, 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 incarnate come from a Latin word that means – in – flesh. Jesus choose to limit himself to the confines of human history and a human body.
John 1:14 in the MSG translation says:
“The WORD became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes.”
Today the incarnated presence of God is intended to be the Church – identified in the Bible as the Body of Christ.
3 Dynamics of Incarnational Life…
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?
To care means, first of all, to be present for each other. — Henri Nouwen
What does it mean to be fully present, or become “a ready listener”?
- 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
- 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 [you] are God’s masterpiece. He has created [you] anew in Christ Jesus, so [you] can do the good things he planned for [you] long ago.” Eph 2:10, NLT (singular & plural)
In The Emotionally Healthy Church 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.
- Determine and set clear boundaries:
- Identify and be clear about 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 (thought to be a description, not a definition)
- 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 (including religion and politics). Civil, or respectful, dialogue…
- 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.
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Matt 10:34
- We cannot have true peace in the Church, or society, with pretense and façade.
To care means, first of all, to be present for each other. –Henri Nouwen