I make an assumption that there are an awful lot of folks within the Family of God that remain unable, unwilling, or at a minimum reluctant to reveal their true selves to the rest of The Family. There could be many reasons for this, but what about the person who stays “shut down” for fear of rejection or being judged? I make this assumption because generally speaking, Jesus’ followers (I’m one of them) have a reputation (deserved or not) for lacking compassion and patience.
Beloved, let us love one another,
for love is from God,
and whoever loves
has been born of God
and knows God.
~ 1 John 4:7 ~
The presence of the love of God invites a person to disclose their true selves. It welcomes them to do so, promising that whatever the discovery, love will not in any way be withheld. It also makes a commitment to point that person toward truth. That’s what genuine love does… always. You can’t love someone rightly and withhold the truth. They stand side by side.
I believe, perhaps naively, that most people are willing to stretch and grow, to learn and modify behavior for the sake of experiencing a life that’s meaningful and purposeful. But that willingness wanes if that individual feels there’s a threat of being ostracized or marginalized for their confessions. It would be a rare person who would choose to remain unknown within a family where they were genuinely loved, even if they knew they might be challenged in areas of conduct and belief.
Whoever loves his brother
abides in the light,
and in him there is
no cause for stumbling.
~ 1 John 2:10 ~
As a follower of Jesus, I am commanded to love and to speak truth in love. I am also strongly cautioned, that I must NEVER attempt to enlighten another person without being acutely aware of my own shortcomings so that the attitude of my heart communicates that it is by grace, and grace alone that I live and have my being. People that speak truth in love are humble people. They never forget what’s been extended to them by way of forgiveness and grace.
I love because I’ve been loved. I offer truth because God in His immeasurable grace illuminates me, and keeps illuminating me. I come with my heart in my hand because I have been forgiven much. I come displaying tenderness because I truly desire wholeness and healing and fullness of life for others; the very things I am constantly offered by Jesus.
So, what would a person do, who is used to being marginalized, if fellow Jesus followers demonstrated a commitment to walk alongside them for the long haul? Likely they would be looking for rejection but longing for acceptance. I believe most would eventually risk and share those things that lay deep within them.
Maybe some of those folks would assume that acceptance meant they would never be called out about behavior contrary to God’s ways. Maybe some would be looking for a nest to nestle down in and a mamma bird to come to feed them for the rest of their days. But I’d wager that the greater percentage would be longing to grow. I believe they’d understand that part of being truly loved means you have to hear and wrestle with hard things when they surface for the sake of forward-motion. We are meant to disciple each other, to make sure we are maturing in our faith.
May the Family of God demonstrate a willingness to create safety for people within our borders. May we create a climate where it’s safe to disclose, and in that context of safety, help each other grow. May we be willing to tell each other the truth, humbly and lovingly, not being content to allow one other to “coast” when we know God is calling us “farther up and farther in.”
Some within our borders will resist personal growth. It costs and it’s often very hard work. Others will run toward the prize full tilt. Let’s be known for our tenderness and compassion, understanding that growth is often painful and that it happens uniquely for each individual. May the hallmark of our Family be the presence of an indiscriminate, Christ-centered LOVE, to any who would embrace it.
let us not love in word or talk
but in deed and in truth.
~ 1 John 3:18 ~