By Gillian Knight
How do you know when someone really loves you?
I hear you say, "Well it depends on the relationship, and there are different kinds of love depending on whether it is a spouse, sibling, parent, child or friend". Alright, so what makes the love of my spouse different to the love of my friend? In some cases, our spouse is our best friend, so the love would be the same.
Did God create these varying degrees of love or have we divided our love into different packages and, dependent on the person requiring the love, decide which package we will open and give them. Did Jesus model this kind of love to others when he was on earth? Did he decide who deserved all His love and who didn’t? No. The God of the universe says, “I know you. And more than know you, I love you so much I will do all I can to meet your deepest needs.” This love is also extended, not just to those who love Him back, but to everyone.
In part two of our look at Loving Relationships we will dig deeper and look at the specific questions in the survey that measure relationships in our community and how we can show love to one another.
Last month, I mentioned how the questions on Loving Relationships can be split into four groups. The first group was “We appreciate each other’s contributions”.
Q35 – The atmosphere of our church is strongly influenced by praise and compliments.
Q83 – Our leaders regularly praise and acknowledge volunteers.
Q48 – When someone in our church does a good job, I tell them.
In a healthy church, encouragement is embedded in the culture because leaders role model it and individuals take responsibility for encouraging one another. This is also closely linked with questions in Gift-based Ministry that talk about feeling supported in ministry, feeling like God is using you and knowing your work has value.
There is nothing wrong with showing kindness and gratefulness to others for a job well done. Do we not experience God’s kindness extended to us every day. It certainly follows that if we experience God’s kindness, we will be transformed by it and reach out in kindness to others. To realise that when we show kindness to Christ’s followers, we are being kind to Him and to His Father.
How many times do we see Paul in his letters providing love and praise for what they have done and encouragement to keep on going.
The second group of questions was “What’s the mood here?”
Q32 – There is a lot of joy and laughter in our church.
Q43 – I know of people in our church with bitterness towards others.
Q80 – If I have a disagreement with a member of our church, I will go to them in order to resolve it.
Leaders need to work on the “atmosphere”: encouraging relationships; growing people not just doing tasks; addressing tensions as they arise and having a clear process for conflict resolution. It is quite intimidating to be in an environment marked by avoidance, criticism and an absence of encouragement.
The third “Are we friends?” is just one simple question.
Q39 – I can rely on my friends at church.
Is your church a community where people are growing relationships that are dependable? Sadly in our Adventist culture, the answer is no. We have challenges when it comes to sharing and trusting our “friends” at church. It should be the only place we come to where we always find help and trust.
The fourth group, “the relational onion”.
Q11 – I find it easy to tell other Christians about my feelings.
Q30 – In our church, it is possible to talk with other people about personal problems.
Q61 – Our leaders show concern for the personal problems of those in ministry.
Q30 – I share with various people in our church about my spiritual journey.
Christians need to grow in relationships that permit and encourage the sharing of feelings. They need to be able to admit to one another when they are up or down. It follows that relationships should grow to the point where people can share personal problems and not be concerned that they will be looked down on, judged or deemed unworthy as believers. Then at the very core is the freedom and encouragement to walk the journey of faith together, honestly and openly.
For such relationships to grow in a church there must be trust, the absence of the critical spirit and leaders prepared to show the way in their relationships. It is very hard to grow a church if these aspects of relationships are largely missing.
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.