Some little whole ago, someone, who normally speaks to me about important issues in their life, had made a point of speaking with someone else about a matter that had been pressing upon their heart and mind.
My initial response was to feel a little miffed that I had not been the one they had spoken to. Having pondered on this response I concluded how foolish it was. Here are a few thoughts:
- If my identity is predicated upon my usefulness then I am a very insecure individual. In fact my life is founded on very precarious foundations. So, should it turn out to be the case that I no longer am able to be of help to somebody then I will lose my worth. Rather, my worth is bound up with who I am in Christ. My life is founded in and on Christ my Lord. My Lord will never fail. Therefore, my identity is secure; very secure.
- I should be thrilled that others are being made useful and are being the means of blessing others by being available to listen to others.
- If people are being raised up in the church to minister to one another then we are seeing something of Ephesians 4:15-16 happening. Those verses read: Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. If and when I see this happening in the church I should be thrilled not miffed
- If someone no longer treats me as their confidant because I have failed them, then I need to make sure that I learn from that failure.
One thing I have observed over recent times is how people can make big shows of caring for someone and then disappear “over the horizon”. Their impact is dramatic in the moment, but ineffective in the long run.
When I see this I feel that the motivation is not really to genuinely care, but rather to put on a show. It is so as to impress others about how much they care. The impression is that the person is really caring. Of course their generosity is patently obvious in the short period that it lasts. However, when all the “caring” is done then the person disappears and they are not seen for a long time.
And I am left thinking of the beautiful commendable character of long-term steady caring. It is not flashy. It is not appreciated so very often. But the regular showing of interest in someone who is a shut-in, for example, is such a commendable ministry. It displays a beautiful perseverance and is self-evidently for the good of the person in need.
In Luke 15:3-7 we have the parable of the lost sheep. This is one aspect of the parable of lostness in Luke 15. The shepherd is emblematic of our great, good and perfect Shepherd. Jesus. The Shepherd goes after the one lost sheep and does all to find the sheep. He then returns home with delight in his heart and the sheep on his shoulders. We read And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbours together and says, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.” (Luke 15:5-6).
Interestingly, we never read of the sheep being taken off the shoulders of the shepherd. At the celebratory returning home party the sheep is always on the shepherd’s shoulders.
Ponder on that fellow believer in our Lord Jesus. You are always on His shoulders and He is happy that you are there. It cost Him His life blood to rescue you and now His delight is in you as a rescued sheep. He will never let you go. His shoulders are always broad enough and strong enough.
So if you feel weak and weary this evening remember that you have a caring Shepherd who rejoices over His rescuing and keeping care of you. You, as His sheep, are in the best of hands and on the best of shoulders. He loves you so much He will never take you off His shoulders.
As part of my time off in March I spent 18 days out in USA. This was the first time west of Dublin for me. so it was a big trip, I spent the time in California. For me it was most definitely a big trip requiring much travelling and time away from family. It was filled with much that was good and a blessing to me.
What struck me afterwards was the way in which people responded to me regarding my trip. Some showed genuine interest, others pretty well ignored it. The consequential impression upon me was that certain people were interested in me and certain people weren’t. That conclusion may well have been wrongly applied, but that was the perception I had.
This leads me on to ponder upon the whole issue of showing interest in people. As Christians this should be part of our DNA. To be people of love, that is true agape love, is to be selflessly sacrificing ourselves for the benefit of others. Moreover, self-sacrifice should be particularly true of those who confess the ultimate self-sacrificing One, our Lord Jesus Christ. Do I show interest in that which is important to others or am I just pre-occupied with myself and my business?
There are two key issues here:
- Discerning what is important to the other person at that juncture of their lives.
- Taking time to enquire and listen to that person as they tell of their experience. This involves asking appropriate questions and listening.
Above all it is about moving prayerfully, in the Spirit so as to be sensitive to God’s moving. It involves wise sensitivities. And out of it comes blessing to the person you have been showing interest in. Furthermore strengthening of relationships transpires. And in all this future potential for a relationship to be used for God’s glory is promoted.
So how about thinking right who you can show interest in and how you can do it. Then pray and then do it
Seldom set foot in your neighbour’s house – too much of you, and they will hate you. (Prov. 25:17). Superficially we might think that this scripture contradicts my observations from last Friday (see here) about the joy of seeing our fellow believers. However, here is a complementary thought.
As we look at this statement we have to remember that it is found in the book of Proverbs. So we must remember that the statement is part of a collection of statements which give general maxims about what constitutes a valuable life. They are generalisms.
So when Solomon writes about seldom being in your neighbour’s house he is making a generalised statement about how to live your life. Notice it does not say “never”; he says “seldom”. What he is saying is that we should never out-stay our welcome. People may be glad to see us. but they will not be so glad if we are still in situ at 1.00am in the morning when they have work the next day and want to get to bed.
Of course circumstances determine outcomes and crises may necessitate our presence beyond normal expectations. However, a general principle should be that we never out-stay our welcome. And then there are all the cultural niceties which bear upon these matters. And cultures vary so much.
This applies about our pastoral visits as well. Be sensitive to the circumstances of those we are visiting.
Finally, as a generalisation “always leave while you are still welcome.” If you heed that you will do well.
I have heard it said that the young men can dream dreams and the old men can see visions, but it really does not matter because the middle aged will make all the decisions.
I wrote on Wednesday here about how church elders should act respectfully towards women. In this post, with all the ongoing revelations and debate about harassment at work, I want to look at a workplace which was a harassment-free space.
The story of Ruth is a beautiful account of how the grace of God works out in the reality of life. There is a poignant moment in the story when Naomi is made aware by Ruth that she, Ruth, has been working in Boaz’s fields. The dialogue between them contains the following:
Then Ruth the Moabite said, ‘He even said to me, “Stay with my workers until they finish harvesting all my grain.”’ Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, ‘It will be good for you, my daughter, to go with the women who work for him, because in someone else’s field you might be harmed.’ (Ruth 2:21-22).
The clear implication is that Ruth knew that Boaz’s field would be a harassment-free zone. It is interesting that Boaz’s fields were known to be a place where women would be safe. This is in contrast to other workplaces where they may well be in danger. Naomi says “in someone else’s fields you might be harmed (v22b). If you’re an employer Boaz provides an example to emulate; your workplace should be harassment-free. This should also be true of our churches. They should be harassment free spaces and the elder have a key responsibility to make them such.
But how was it that Boaz got to have such a reputation. It was not that he had obtained this through creating a male-free zone. Ruth 2:9 clearly indicates that there were men around in the fields during harvest time. So what were some of the things which fostered a harassment-free zone. Let us loo for them in Ruth 2.
- Boaz was a man of substance. In v1b we read that he was a a man of standing. He was a man of strength and courage; an upright man.
- He created a sense of God in his workplace. Let us observe this interaction: Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, ‘The Lord be with you!’ ‘The Lord bless you!’ they answered (v4). God was openly and reverently acknowledged on his farm.
- There was an interest in people. Workers were not just numbers on Boaz’s farm. When Boaz enquires of the new girl on the block, the overseer knows immediately who she was (see v.6); he has obviously found out. Moreover, Boaz himself makes enquiries about the girl’s background (see v11).
- Boaz was also proactive in establishing practices which prevented any harassment. He tells Ruth I have told the men not to lay a hand on you (v9b). He did not assume no problems would arise; he took action to make sure no problems would arise.
- It was a caring environment as well. He says to Ruth whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled (v9c)’. Then we see in vv14-16 the detailed arrangements put in place to make sure Ruth was provided for.
Work-place harassment would soon be finished if the pattern of Boaz was followed. Oh what a place this was to work. Boaz had a well-earned reputation.
So if you are an employer or any form of manger are you Boaz-like? Are you creating a harrasmenst-free space for all to work in.
And by the way a lot of this applies to churches. I dealt with how Boaz provides a pattern for how we welcome people in our churches here.