Move towards and greet one another
‘Who am I moving towards?’ is a question that was put to me recently.* Often I am busy, distracted. But that’s not the issue. More than that, I think my struggle can be choosing who I move towards. Sometimes I show partiality in who I want to talk to.
Can you relate?
Once engaged with someone, the question is what are we focused on? Is it more about getting what we want out of the conversation, or patiently hearing from someone? Do we take time to hear, to really listen? When asking questions, can we be too bland and one dimensional? Do we listen well enough to hear what’s going on in their life? The Bible encourages us to ‘look for the good’ in each other’s lives. But alongside that is the challenge to consider someone else’s perspective. Is there so much going on in my life that I don’t have space for others? I think I can be too preoccupied – what about you…?
As a particularly driven, task-oriented person, I like activity but I’m not sure I always see the person in front of me clearly, or what is going on in their lives. But it’s the person who is important!
A heart issue
Do I think (and believe) that the person in front of me can’t give me what is of interest to me, so I don’t honour them with my time and energy?
Do I selfishly want people to ask me about my life? Do I fear being trapped in a conversation that’s one-sided and so is not enjoyable to me?
Do I struggle to choose who to speak with, maybe in church café or after church services? Do I hover, rather than just sit down and chat? Am I too intense? Do I shy away from being more intentional in my conversation?
We can all find it hard to move toward and engage for all sorts of reasons. But what do we do about it? We can acknowledge things that are hard to do, but do we ask God for help?
The thing that Ed* encourages us to do is to see how God has moved towards us. He has done so in grace, mercy and love, with patience and gentle pursuing.
He has moved towards me in the quiet times and in the loud ‘wake-up call’ of difficult situations and circumstances; in my sin and rebellion as well as in my obedience. In and through it all, he has persevered with me. He is gracious towards me. So I too can grow in extending grace to others.
It’s good to talk with each other. Small talk is good – not every conversation needs to be about deep matters. But in the ebb and flow of life, we can also grow more intentional. We can move beyond, ‘I’m fine’, ‘I’m busy’, ‘how’s work?’ and ‘how’s the family?’ Our aim is to get beyond the tasks and functions of life to who we are, and what we are becoming; to who God is and where we are with the Lord.
Going deeper in ways that:
- make sense,
- are natural,
- are faith affirming,
- faith strengthening,
- sin opposing,
- God glorifying,
- people honouring.
That’s not easy – both people in the conversation have to work at it!
Yet Scripture encourages us to see people as God sees them. We are made in God’s image and the Bible uses rich language to identify and describe us. We are God’s children, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, priests, saints, sinners. I could go on. But the language and biblical metaphors shape how we see each person in front of us at church.
Ephesians emphasises our identity and reveals Paul’s concern, how he prays, his thinking, desires and actions – all rooted in his understanding of what it means to belong to God. You know the letter well, I’m sure – the rich descriptions of who we are in Christ, what we were and are becoming as we live together: growing, maturing and attaining to the full measure of Christ. That’s the idea of growing. It’s becoming more and more like Jesus, and less like our old self.
Moving towards others and engaging in conversation is a critical part of that growth. I hope we will see more and more progress in our conversations in Greenview as we help one another. Together.
*I had the opportunity to think about this question with my fellow elders a month ago. We have been using Side by Side by Ed Welch to help shape our reflections to one another. This theme is picked up in the chapter, ‘Move toward and greet one another’.