She sits across from me, perched on the edge of her seat. She makes limited eye contact as she begins to describe the circumstances which have brought her to this room. It’s obvious she doesn't feel very comfortable, but the hope for help and expectancy of change hold her here. She needs something. She’s weary and searching for a hand to reach out and grab on to.
I’ve had the privilege of being the biblical counselor sitting on the other side of this scene, asking the Holy Spirit to give me wisdom and gospel-clarity to share. These kinds of moments, however- when pain reaches out and love attempts to reciprocate- should not be unique to a counselor’s office. This is what is meant to happen every day, in living rooms, coffee shops, and crowded playgrounds. God, in his mercy and through his Spirit, has equipped every follower of Christ to be able to speak gospel truth and encourage others with the Word. Unfortunately, I haven’t witnessed this to be the norm for relationships in local gatherings of the Church. The need for more of these gospel-saturated friendships, which facilitate real growth, healing, and change, should drive us to ask, “What keeps these kind of friendships from happening? What keeps me from pressing in to this?”
In my life the answer to those questions has been fear. Various fears- judgement, rejection or ineffectiveness- have driven me to stop short when it comes to developing deep relationships. By God’s grace alone I’ve learned how the gospel speaks directly to my fears and have been freed to taste and seen how good true community can be. “What struggles can I share this week in group that won’t make me sound too bad?”
The need for more of these gospel-saturated friendships, which facilitate real growth, healing, and change, should drive us to ask, “What keeps these kind of friendships from happening? What keeps me from pressing in to this?”
I can remember thinking and operating this way. I was so afraid my friends would find out how truly sinful I was, and that they’d politely opt out. I was worshiping others’ perception of me and denying what God had already declared about my identity! When God, out of the overflow of his love and by his grace alone, brings a dead heart to life and grants sight to spiritually blind eyes, he doesn’t begrudgingly tolerate us. He adopts us into his family and delights in welcoming us to his table! The perfect blood of Jesus atones for our rebellion and changes our identity completely. The Father looks at Jesus and says, “This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased.” The Father looks at me and sees Jesus. The Father looks at me and is well pleased! When my heart is awakened to this beautiful truth, my worry of how I will look to others begins to fade. Humble gratitude stirs worship within me, and I let the veil of my own perceived self-righteousness be torn down. I can share my struggles openly, as well as extend judgement-free grace to others.
In addition to the fear of judgement or rejection, I have also seen how the fear of “not having anything good to offer” keeps men and women hiding behind the walls of surface-friendships. In Christ we see that we can actually look this fear dead in the eye and say, “Yep. You’re right.” In our own flesh we don’t have anything good to offer. But by God’s grace we can echo Paul and affirm that, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”
When I’m afraid to enter in to someone else’s hurt because I won’t know what to do or say, I’m forgetting what that other person truly needs.
They don’t need impressive sounding advice or more how-to’s; they need Jesus. So, all I need to do is move out of the way and let him love on them. The details of how God will work in each relationship will look very different, but we can trust that he will work.
And what a joy it is to be a part of sharing Christ’s love with someone else! God doesn't need me in order to accomplish his will. I get to be a part of his work, and as my joy in him grows, he is even more greatly glorified through me. Remember, you have been redeemed for a reason. Jesus not only saves us from, he saves us to. When we are rescued out of the domain of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of the Son, it’s for a specific mission! God has chosen to use each of us to bring the message of hope to the hurting world around us, and it is solely in him that we will find the ability to do so.
Jesus not only saves us from, he saves us to.
The same Spirit who defeated death indwells each regenerate believer, empowering us to do his work, right in our own small circles of influence!
So take heart, you do have something great to offer, the most beautiful Gift to give. Trust the Wonderful Counselor to lead, he is forever faithful.
Right now is the perfect time to prayerfully consider how God may be calling you away from fear and into more of his mission. As social media explodes with reactions to our culture, the Body of Christ must be ready to respond...not just in 140 characters or Likes, but in real, sit and listen to your pain, in it for the long haul, repent and forgive, on-the- ground, gospel relationships.
May we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and allow him to remind us daily- moment to moment- of who he is and what he’s done. Only this will rightly inform who we are and what we are called to do. May we go forward in humble boldness, looking past headlines and into the eyes of the hurting. And may we all know what gospel-saturated community truly feels like.