Continuing with our weekly theme of Q and A, here’s another bit of dialogue with a brother concerned about relationships:
I also have some other good friends that are Christians. With a few of these we are experiencing community. The majority, however, are simply interested in a one-way relationship. What I mean is that they are open for relationship as long as we initiate the contact. Wayne, I am tired of one-way relationships and will no longer pursue them.
So, on the one hand, I am frustrated by all the one-way relationship Christians that I constantly encounter, but on the other hand this has freed me up to have close relationships with people like Joseph. Instead of having my time consumed by a community of believers, some of my time is consumed by nonbelievers. This perhaps could very well be what God has in store for us. Does this sound correct, or am I truly the loser that I think I am?
What do you mean loser? I think you may be taking personally, what is not personal and I’d be careful about abandoning one-way relationships. Believe me, I can understand the frustration of feeling like you’re the only one pursuing relationship, but don’t dismiss that gift so quickly. Honestly, of the people I meet (and I meet some pretty awesome people) I’d say less than 25% have the courage, motivation, or presence of mind to intentionally build relationships or facilitate others doing so. Isn’t that sad? I’d think anyone growing to know Jesus would be excited to meet others, invite them over or out to lunch, or even call once and awhile to see how someone’s doing, but that simply isn’t true. And though I know that relationships are a lot more fun when both people exhibit the same desire to get-together, I think you might want to reconsider tuning out those who don’t seem to reciprocate.
I say that for a couple of reasons. Jesus specifically warned us about the trap of reciprocating relationships. He said it in the context of inviting people for dinner who can also invite you back. He encouraged us to invite those who can’t invite us back. The reasons for that may be financial, but they could also be emotional or something else. I know people who desperately want community, but they can barely keep their head above the water of job and family responsibilities to make the choices to actually participate in it. That’s epidemic in the States, I think. Yes, it may reflect a lack of discipline, but not necessarily a lack of desire.
Second, you may be the only relationship that other person has, and though they don’t have the wherewithal to initiate contact, they may be deeply appreciative of the contact they do have. I have come to look at relationships this way: Two-way relationships are the stuff of community and deep fellowship. When both parties are involved intentionally, it is the best. I look at one-way relationships as ministry. I may not get much back from them, but I’m willing to give all I can to help them further along the journey. Over time some of those one-way friendships actually develop into real community as the person gets freer from the demands of this age and learns to live in the invitation of the kingdom.
And yes, I have ended up in far more one-way relationships than I have two way, but now I’m no longer worried about it. The question I deal with now is not, “What am I getting out of this?” Rather, it is, “What is Jesus asking me to do to encourage life among his family?” Every community group that survives over time has at least two or three folks in it who can initiate fellowship, facilitate getting together and keeps others on their heart so serve them however they know to do it. Would that all God’s people lived that way. What a body that would be! But for now we have to realize that few people really understand how body life really happens and have the strength, time and emotional resource to reach out aggressively to others. We need more of those, not less. So, hang in there, Bro! I know it isn’t easy. You may not see the fruit of those relationships for years, but when you do it is worth the time planting and cultivating.
I am all for you having relationships in and out of the body! Great stuff! I just wouldn’t make rules about it and simply be free to follow the Lamb wherever he goes. When he puts someone on your heart, pursue it. Don’t worry about their ability to reciprocate. Be a blessing to them and watch what God does…