I have a tendency to assume that what’s wrong with me is what’s wrong with everyone else.
I Am a Rule Monger
I love rules. I want to know what is expected of me and I want to know what I should expect the behavior of others to be.
When I first met Jesus, I understood that He saved me by grace alone—not because I had been such a good person. I knew that He loved me and wanted a “relationship” with me. But I wanted to get down to the business of figuring out the proper way of doing this Christianity thing. God had a way He liked things done, and I wanted to do ’em that way. Sure, He loved me, but what does it look like for God to love an unworthy human anyway?
For me, it meant that He set down some rules that both tested my spirituality and kept my life on the path that was ultimately best for me. A relationship with God was figuring out the rules, and keeping them as best I could while God decided if He approved or disapproved of my course.
It’s only been in the last few years that I have really begun to understand God’s relational character and what that means about how He sees me and what He really wants from me. Growing in this area has fostered a deep and honest to goodness relationship with my God. It has changed my view of God and my outlook on life dramatically.
Therefore, that is what everyone needs to catapult their own relationship with God to greater and deeper places than it has ever been, right?
Well, I have a friend who thinks that is preposterous…and she would be right.
The Flip Side
My friend shared with me that when she first accepted the gospel, she viewed her relationship with God much like her human relationships. Her heavenly Father loved her, wanted good things for her, was interested in her, and cared deeply about her heart and emotions. She knew He was intimately involved in every aspect of her life with more concern and tenderness than the best of earthly fathers.
She didn’t need to know that God really wanted a relationship with her—she had that part down. She needed to know that the way we live really matters to God—that caring about what He cares about and obeying Him is how we demonstrate our love for Him. As she learned those things over time, Her relationship with God was greatly enriched.
As young Christians, my friend and I had very different sets of motives, blind spots, and perspectives.
A Little Sensitivity Please
I find that one of the most effective ways to communicate eternal truths is by sharing personal lessons God has taught me. In fact, I would go so far as to say that is how I think God most often uses me to help others. But it seems I ought to be sensitive to my audience and to the Holy Spirit. If I am not, I could not only be totally missing the mark, I could actually be reinforcing bad habits and imbalanced perspectives.
So, as I let the Holy Spirit shape and change me, I might also ask Him to give me wisdom and insight into the needs of those I minister to. Often my greatest or most recent lesson from God is exactly what someone else needs to hear. That just doesn’t necessarily mean that’s what everyone needs to hear.