I was in Grand Rapids, MI last month speaking at a camp called SERVE. It has been a fixture for Ginger and my life for the past several summers. In Grand Rapids, MI there is a lovely church, Brookside CRC, that we have come to love. We have been there so many consecutive years that we no longer see the folks there as Michigan people, but distant relatives that we get to visit at least once a year.
On one of the days of the missions experience, we went to the beach in Holland, MI. On the way there we passed a Honda Hybrid with a sticker that said “56.2” or something like that. It reminded me of the “26.2” stickers that marathon runners have on their cars. This Honda was so tiny, though. It might of had the ability to get several miles to the gallon more than a normal car, but there was no room in the car for anything else but the driver and maybe a very short friend.
My friend Brian commented on the sticker… “I’d rather have 12 mpg and have some friends.”
Relationships are vital, but not automatic. To have vibrant friendships, we need to open ourselves up to others, open ourselves up to God, and open ourselves up to… ourselves. Professionals who work primarily with people and their brokenness (pastor, counselors, therapists, etc…) estimate that 90% of what they help people with is in direct result to relationships that have gone bad.
It is not uncommon for a person in a pastoral position to work with someone whose life is falling apart, who has relationships strained in every direction, and still the person not submitting to the fact that they are the issue. “I must pick some bad friends, have bad family members, or have bad co-workers… what ever will I do?” If every relationship around us is strained, it isn’t everyone else fault. The common denominator is us… we need to change.
Paul says to the church in Rome, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18)
If it is possible– most relationships are possible to fix and to sustain if we choose to serve, to be patient, and to listen first.
As far as it depends on you– the Christian response to relationships is to move first, not to wait on the other to move towards you. Jesus moved towards us before we moved towards Him. Make it happen.
Live at peace with everyone– there are a lot of things we argue over that are not worth it. If it comes down to it, win a friend, not the argument.
I pray that it would be said of us as believers (at least in my own little world that I find myself connected in) that we are generous, loving, helpful, and peaceful people. There are so many vile things that the world has observed about us as the people of God. May the Spirit of God help us to be people of peace with vibrant relationships.