Need to start at the beginning? Here's Week 1
Some of us have been told what we want our whole lives. We’ve been told we should want to go out for sports or not. We should want a college education or a graduate degree or a particular career. We should want to date this person and not the other one. None of it is mean-spirited, of course, and no one means any harm. It just doesn’t sit well with us.
It happens in our churches and schools and faith communities too. We’re told by someone what God wants us to do and not do. We’re told we shouldn’t drink or cuss or watch certain movies. We’re told we should want to have “quiet times” in the mornings and talk to strangers about “a relationship with God.” We’re told we should want to go on “mission trips” and “witness” to people, so we do it even if we don’t really know what the words mean. But often just for a while. After long enough, what looks like faith isn’t really faith anymore. It’s just compliance.
The problem with mere compliance is it turns us into posers. Rather than making decisions ourselves, we do what everyone we respect tells us we ought to do, and we sacrifice our ability to make choices of our own. The fix is as easy as the problem is hard. Instead of telling people what they want, we need to tell them who they are. This works every time.
We’ll become in our lives whoever the people we love the most say we are.
God did this constantly in the Bible. He told Moses he was a leader and Moses became one. He told Noah he was a sailor and he became one. He told Sarah she was a mother and she became one. He told Peter he was a rock and he led the church. He told Jonah he’d be fish food and, well, he was. If we want to love people the way God loved people, let God’s Spirit do the talking when it comes to telling people what they want.
Historically, Native Americans were told by the "men of God" that they were heathens and unworthy of God's love as they were. To earn heaven, they needed to change and act white. Those lies stuck with Native societies and after centuries of mistreatment, children are still being "told" they are unwanted and unworthy of love by abusive parents and family members.
Our first goal in ministry is to show broken people they are loved and worthy of God's grace and forgiveness.
All the directions we’re giving to each other aren’t getting people to the feet of Jesus. More often, the unintended result is they lead these people back to us. When we make ourselves the hall monitor of other people’s behavior, we risk having approval become more important than Jesus’ love.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
This devotion is based on Bob Goff's book, Everybody, Always, with some variations as they related to Lutheran Indian Ministries. Buy the book here.