That blank is usually filled in with “husband” or “wife”, but it is sometimes used with “congregation” or “house church.”
I understand their concern. They are excited about the fresh relational journey they are on, discovering how to live loved and are finding the institutional approach they are involved in to be counterproductive to the community they desire. Our first thought is how do we get others to embrace our journey and help us accomplish what we want. As noble as it may be, this approach never ends well. The moment we are trying to get someone else to see what we see, we become a manipulator of their journey, rather than a friend alongside them.
Trying to convince others that they should want what you want will destroy your relationships, not build them as this recent email exchange demonstrates. The writer was concerned about getting his wife, his neighbors and his faith community to embrace the journey he was on. Concerned that their own approaches would fail them he wanted to know what secrets I had to getting other people to see these things.
Here’s how I responded: Not knowing you or the others involved in this circumstance make it nearly impossible for me to know how to advise you here. It does seem like you’re a bit more anti-institutional that God needs you to be. Why wouldn’t you rejoice that your neighbor and his wife are opening the door to Jesus again? Don’t you think he is bigger than whatever weaknesses are part of the religious club they are now going to?
It is an impossible task to get someone else to come on this journey. That isn’t your job and others will only resent you when you try. All you need to do is go on this journey and in the going let God make you a better lover of your wife right where she’s at. This podcast may help you. Read Romans 14 and the first part of 15 in the Message about enjoying your journey but not imposing it on others. If she sees the journey you’re on as an added pressure for her to conform, it won’t be helpful. Even asking for her opinion on Transitions, she might well be recognizing as a pressure to listen to something she really isn’t ready to listen to yet. These are some things that have helped Sara and me on this journey. I hope they help you too.
He wrote back:
Thanks for your straight answer. Though I am not ‘militantly anti-institutional’, I am into life with Jesus being more than the 1/7 of the week in which we participate in dysfunction. Interestingly enough, our ‘church’ is having an intervention and we were given two suggestions to turn things around and I am willing to work as God requires of me to drive our community into more loving relationships with each other.
I read Romans 14-15 in NIV, and I believe I got it. It is not about getting others to believe what I believe we are free to do. I am currently listening to your unequally yoked podcast. I’ll have to listen to it a couple times. It is good. Thanks for sharing your journey via podcasts! I was approaching this situation with the wrong heart. Thanks for shooting straight.
To which I responded: But just so you know, you cannot “work as God requires of me to drive our community into more loving relationships with each other.” You can’t drive people into love, you can only invite them. And you can live with Jesus all seven days of the week whether they desire to or not. Changing them is not the goal. Living free will have far more impact on you and them!
And then he wrote back:
Oh man, so much to learn! It sounds like a simple thing, ‘living loved’. I guess, I can drive them if I invite them into my car :). I’ve definitely started the journey. I don’t know if there is a lot to learn so much as ‘unlearn’. Man, isn’t it amazing how much has to unlearn over the course of time? I was saved 11 years ago, and things were so fresh and new and then I went to Bible College, and only a couple years ago have shed the bulk of Phariseeism, only to find, I still am a creature of habits that need letting go. Not saying that one has a final revelation of God’s love when they first come into that relationship, but it is so much more pure than what happens over the course of time when you get stuck in playing the religious games.