June 24, 2013

For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine.” Romans 1:11, 12

Last month I saw an old friend, actually an old neighbor. He never became a friend; tough I tried. Our connection was really based on a mutual friend who we were both very close to. So I thought I was close to the third party too. But last month convinced me – there was no real connection. And it bugged me. I’ve been thinking of it since – what’s wrong, why can’t we connect?

Then, last week, I was at a corporate lunch with total strangers. We all had a couple of things in common – that was why we were there. So I thought I had a chance to start a new relationship or two from our table.

I tried to get involved in the conversation as I was the one nobody knew. It went OK, but there was no connection. There was a bunch of “sizing up”, but nothing deeper than “what do you do for a living, where do you live, where did you graduate”. I hate the shallow exercise of measuring people against a social/economic yardstick. But that is how it goes sometimes. As you can see, there was no substance, no connection.

It’s finally dawning on me that I won’t be close to everyone. Some relationship efforts will never work out – unless something changes in the “connection-equation”.

It’s becoming clearer to me that relationships are based on what we offer. Yep, “what we have to offer”. That sounds pretty utilitarian, I know. But, trust me; I am not eliminating love from the equation. What I am saying is reciprocation is the key. You can love all you want but that doesn’t guarantee a relationship.

Relationships, by definition contain at least two parts. In fact the word “relationship” means; “the quality or state of being related; connection”. Its component parts reinforce the meaning.  (1.) “relate”, means, “to connect or associate” and (2.) “ship”, means,” the quality, condition or state of”… your situation; whatever it may be – it could be quality of your workmanship, penmanship or, in this case, your quality of relating to others ; your relationships. Make sense?

Here’s the point in this grammatical exercise. It has bugged me for some time that I can’t quite “connect” with folks that I want to be a part of my world. But now I know what attracts folks to each other is “what they have to offer”.  And, because that’s true, it naturally leads to the following facts of relationship development.

  1. First is this fact; if someone has something to offer me, I will want to pursue a relationship with them. Or, if I have something to offer them, they will pursue me. But that will not guarantee a close relationship, just a one way pursuit; a marginal relationship where tolerance or acquiescence or remuneration finalizes the connection of one to the other. Business resides here, as well as one way friendships and marriages too!
  2.  A second scenario is where neither party is interested in what the other has to offer. In that case, try as one might, there will never be a real connection. It goes something like this – ‘they aren’t interested in what I have to offer and frankly, they have nothing to offer me, so there is no need trying’. I have fought this one for years; with people whom I think I should have a connection. I still believe that what I have to offer people in Christ should be desired by them as much as I desire to share Him with them. But now I know only divine intervention can create a connection where there is no interest. Many lost, lonely, depressed and displaced people live here.
  3. The best “relationship” is the last. When two people both have something to offer the other and both want that offering. Then a natural, deeper “connection” will develop. Spiritually, The Heavenly Father wants to be reunited in relation with us. And we need His mercy and Grace to get there. I need Him, He wants me. This creates the perfect relational balance of both “desire for” and “deliverable to” one person to another. Jesus and His church live here; the best marriages and families too!

Those three points are true in the gospel. In the gospel God pursues a relationship with us and pursues us with mercy; redemptively. Alas, many people reject His offer and no connection is established. However, when the pursued accepts God’s offer of grace, a tight, unbreakable bond develops and the relationship grows over time.

This is also true in missions. The apostle Paul recounts the facts of a deep and developing relationship when he writes the church in Rome. Paul declares that he can’t wait to see them so he can impart his spiritual gift of ministry to them and he, reciprocally, looks forward to receiving from them, their spiritual gift; as they minister to him. In this biblical scenario, both parties want what the other has to offer and a depth of relationship, their connection, develops despite being separated by many miles.

So, now I can relax.  I don’t need to have my little feelings hurt or be confused .This fact, sadly, explains why ministry or even me, are ignored and rejected by many with whom I come into contact. I can be disappointed but not confused.

On the other hand, I can robustly rejoice in the many solid and growing relationships God has given me in ministry and so many who have connected with God, my Savior, through the gospel that I preach (1 Cor 15:1).

Thank you too, for caring about ministry. Thank you for logging on to our site, reviewing the articles. I trust you are sharing them with other men you know. Thank you and God bless you.

The fact is, you have something, in Christ, to offer us and we want your gift, brother! So let us know what you‘ve got going on, ministry wise. And let us know how we can help you reach others with the gospel so we’ll have more friends; not just on Facebook but in heaven – where we can connect with them forever!

Jim Cote’


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