Wednesday, December 12, 2012
The Loving-kindness in Choosing With
By Micky Wolf
Consider this for a moment—one of the most radical aspects of Jesus being Jesus was his willingness to be with people—all kinds of people. All of which has prompted me to ponder what it means to be an authentic Christian.
I am coming to the conclusion a lot of the chaos, division, and downright confrontational abrasiveness that abound in virtually every aspect of our business, religious and cultural environments these days hinges on a subtle but powerful shift in our thinking: we have lost our sense of what it means to be with.
When we intentionally make a choice to be with an individual or group, we open the door to a multitude of possibilities for developing and building loving relationships. Why? Interpreting and living life through a perspective of “I’m with you”, inherently demonstrates virtues and values of inclusivity and acceptance.
A deeper implication for choosing a heart attitude which resonates a sincere desire to ‘being with’ is the concept of sharing a journey, accompanying one another through thick and thin, the ups and downs, the good times and the messy, unpleasant ones. If you and I feel and think of ourselves as “we’re all in this together”—whether the present moment or the longer term—we tend to be more compassionate, more caring, less likely to focus on what makes us different and more on what we have in common and the ways we can support and encourage one another.
At the same time, it is important to note while Jesus regularly included and accepted many diverse people wherever he went, he did not equate these values with any expectation that either he or those he spent time with be in lock-step agreement with every thought and idea that surfaced. If anything, it was quite the reverse—his willingness to encourage openness, inclusivity, and acceptance helped create a safe and healthy environment for all who desired to participate, regardless of their state in life or what they had to say.
With does wonders to:
…defuse barriers designed to protect a hierarchical system. Titles and/or indications of position may be necessary for form and function, however, when engagement with others emphasizes rank over the mission at hand, the sense of partnership and sharing a purpose gets shoved aside.
…connect people, ideas, and possibilities. Some relationships and groups work well together and have a track record to prove it. On the other hand, our familiarity with one another and the process may have become stale or lacking energy and enthusiasm. When we choose to bring others into the mix, we open ourselves to new and fresh insights which light a fire or fan the embers already present to bring about healthy change.
…break-down prejudices, preconceived notions, and self-protective judgments. We all know how easy it is to assess and evaluate from afar. Such attitudes and behaviors change drastically when we allow ourselves to sit or stand shoulder to shoulder with those we perceive to be different from us. Socio-economic, ethnic, religious and political notions are usually dependent on personal experience. When we come along side another person who may have what seems to be a drastically different perspective on life, we eventually discover, to our mutual enlightenment—the vitality and beauty of our shared humanity.
…nurture and form through personal growth and development. When we spend the majority of our time with people who are very similar to us in more ways than not, we may wake up one morning to realize we have become intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually indifferent—even lazy. It’s easy to be with those we like or love, and vice versa. Yet, if we get gut level honest with ourselves, when have we experienced the most growth? Personal refining? Healing? Jesus made it plain and clear—iron sharpens iron—and often nothing produces more meaningful and effective transformation within each of us than when we get involved with other people and activities apart from our comfortable routines and venues.
…strengthen and unite individuals with one another, and within the larger corporate communities where we work, learn, worship, and recreate. There is an amazing, energizing ripple effect which begins and continues as two by two, community by community, we allow ourselves to be with one another, learn from one another and encourage—even love—one another. When you and I are authentically present with one another, we have the potential, if we so choose, to allow our strengths, gifts, and talents, as well as our weaknesses and brokenness to be used of God to accomplish good things of all manner and description. Including, what by any stretch of the imagination, could be considered the occasional miracle.
With. Just another four-letter word? No—certainly not when lived with a heart-attitude of inclusivity and acceptance as Jesus modeled for us in so many ways.
What individual or group am I hesitant to be around? Why?
Can I identify personal barriers to being with others who seem different?
If I had one hour to be with someone [not a Biblical person] who would it be? Why?
If I had one hour to be with someone I’m uncomfortable with, who would it be? Why?