Above all, maintain an intense love for each other, since love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. (1 Peter 4:8-9)
What do you have difficulty embracing?
How do you handle sin in someone else’s life? Does it differ from how you handle sin in your own life?
How hospitable without complaining are you?
Just as God wants us to love what He loves, He also wants us to know what is outside His intention and ideal. No matter what someone is doing, God doesn’t hate the person. Each person is His creation. God has purpose for each person, whether he or she fulfills it or not. He doesn’t want to lose a single person from eternal life with Him, but He gives us choice, and our eternal lives are impacted by those choices. God hates sin. He hates anything that comes between us and Him. We are made in His image, and He intends for us to become more like Him every moment as we pursue Him through faith. We need to know what He loves and what He doesn’t. However, it’s not about legalism. We cannot consider God’s justice without His grace.
We don’t carry the responsibility of God’s justice. We are not the moral police. He is the judge. There’s a difference between being the judge and jury and being a discerning believer who isn’t gullible enough to accept falsehoods or too proud to acknowledge or assume truth. As we become familiar with God’s will and He stirs the passions within us, He will let us know when we need to respond appropriately to something that angers Him. And He will equip us to confront, speak the truth, and love in His way. We don’t have to fix everything. We don’t need to convict someone. But we also don’t need to stand beside the road and ignore what is outside of God’s intention and ideal. The key is discernment, trusting God’s timing in every response of thought, words and actions. Just as Jesus did, we will often be prompted to embrace the outcasts, ill, and misunderstood.
Give a hug today. In fact, give as many as you can.
You need people in your life that pursue and invest in you. Someone who asks how you are. Someone who sees that you aren’t fine even though you say you are. Someone who wants you to tell her something, anything, because she knows that if you aren’t telling her anything, you’re probably not telling anyone.
It’s not easy to develop relationships that are vulnerable enough to know the quirks and warning signs while being steeped with the trust it takes to confront, listen, and patiently pursue until someone is ready to talk. Sometimes that person is someone in our own home, but more often, it’s someone outside of it with just enough distance that they can be there even when those relationships are under stress. And that’s one of the reasons it’s difficult to find that someone. It requires a sacrifice of time to develop. We don’t instantly trust people. We can’t share our life story in one setting. There will always be a few gaps here and there, but people who invest well in our lives connect some dots to find threads woven together to make us who we are.
I have watched young women struggle to find that one lifelong friend who understands them and is fiercely loyal and authentic. But I find the same struggle among women of all ages. Sometimes it’s because of their own expectations of what that friend should be (and not be). They want many boxes ticked off their list without realized the other person is growing and learning, too. We develop friendships through a pursuit of trust, grace, forgiveness, and honesty.
Friendships come and go over time, but it helps when we look forward with an expectation of longevity. We can’t have it all at once. In fact, we can’t ever have it all. There’s always room for growth, and we have to be willing to engage, not just because we need someone but because they need us, too. We need each other to invite authenticity and allow accountability.
We need to ask each other how we are and be willing to answer honestly.
In all his scheming, the wicked arrogantly thinks: “There is no accountability, since God does not exist.” (Psalm 10:4b)
No accountability. It’s what a lot of people think, and I wouldn’t categorize all those people as “wicked.” Maybe we all agree to some semblance of accountability, but it’s often accountability we determine as allowable. People are often willing to be accountable to what or whom they agree with, what’s acceptable and comfortable enough for us to handle.
But if our basis premise is wrong, what good is the accountability? If we hold ourselves accountable to the wrong things, is it actually accountability?
“I realize I’m holding the divorce card in my pocket, and I need to get rid of it.”
It was a confession inviting accountability among those who were listening. The woman wasn’t proud of the card she was holding as an option. She humbly admitted in order to fully try to resolve a situation, she needed to set aside the option to get out. She needed to refuse the escape clause.
For her, it was a divorce card, but there can be so many other cards we carry with us “just in case.” We list a variety of situations in which we will use our card, and we believe we are fully justified, mainly because of what the other person does. We feel out of control because of what someone else can do–because others always have the freedom to make their own decisions, even those that impact us–so we cling to control by reserving a rarely-stated but powerfully-threatening card that we will pull out faster than the yellow penalty card on the soccer field. Even if we haven’t been wronged, we know there is potential, so we reserve the right to strike back.
But holding that card takes room in our lives, especially emotionally.
Maybe you’re not quite ready to ask someone to hold you accountable to get rid of the card you’re holding “just in case,” but at the very least, be honest with yourself about the card you’re holding. Count the cost of it.
I got involved in a social media “conversation” a while back that had an important discussion at stake. It was an invitation to listen to different perspectives and try to understand each other. It was an opportunity to consider solutions that might actually yield results if we could work together. But how can we expect to come together as a nation, state, community, family, church, workplace, and the list goes on, if we are only willing to toxically spew why we’re right and how everyone else is wrong? Our solutions are so easy…
If people would only raise their children right…
If people would only believe the right things…
If we could just get rid of “stupid”…(I’m not kidding. That was actually a suggestion! I refrained from giving my response to that one.)
We often rage because we’re too lazy to lament about the woes of something. We don’t want to feel the personal pain that results from a choice, situation, or act. We want to distance ourselves enough from it so we can come up with a solution that neatly fits without complications of reality. We don’t want to dip our toes into humility enough to consider–let alone admit–that we might be wrong, even if it’s just a little bit.
There’s a place for passion. There’s even a place for anger when injustices need to be confronted. But let’s use our filters and our brains. Let’s be responsible enough to engage in humble, intelligent, God-honoring, respectful conversations with people, especially people different than ourselves.
Will you join me? We can hold each other accountable.
You have done amazing things we did not expect. You came down, and the mountains trembled before you. (Isaiah 64:3)
Many times, the difference between expectations and reality causes disappointment, but it can also cause surprise and celebration. Throughout the Bible, God showed up in amazing ways that people didn’t expect. Follow God’s lead.
Be understandable.If people don’t understand what you’re saying, they won’t follow, learn, and grow. They’re not going to understand everything you say – just as you sometimes won’t understand their perspective – but strive to find common ground and start there.
Be passionate.You’re not going to be excited about everything you’re doing all the time, but keep your passion level in check. People around you can sense if you’re going through the motions or if you’re seeking, learning, and growing. Passion is contagious.
Be protective. Avoid being overly protective or developing co-dependent relationships, but pay attention so that people aren’t getting left behind, lost, or hurt. Set healthy boundaries. Invite accountability. Learn lessons of responsibility and consequence.
Be attentive. Get to know the people around you – their interests, quirks, experiences, and dreams. As you get to know and care about people, they’ll trust you more. Listening might seem like it’s a small thing, but it’s one of the most inexpensive, sacrificial, generous gifts you can give.
A group of four women sat at the water’s edge, side by side, looking out on the water stretched far beyond them as they chatted and laughed. A group of four men stood in a circle in the deeper water, far enough away to have private conversations but close enough to pass something along to the women if necessary. I heard an older gentleman walk up to the women and joke, “I’m doing a sociology experiment and just wanted to know: what’s wrong with those men that they abandoned all you women at once?” One woman responded, “They didn’t abandon us. We told them to go away. We needed some girl time.”
We all do.
Some have no trouble seeing the need for girl time. They regularly set days aside, make their friendships a priority, and get rejuvenated by the connections. Others struggle with the concept. They’ve been hurt by girls and women through the years. They assume girl time is all about giggles, pink, silliness, fakeness, and judgment. But girl time requires none of those things. It’s specific to each relationship or group. For some, girl time is quiet conversation over a cup of coffee, a walk in the part, story-telling, deep discussion, or some kind of creative expression.
Girl time is meeting each other where we are, finding common ground, inviting each other into our lives and risking vulnerability to reveal ourselves, too. It’s not saying “This is me; take it or leave it” or “This is the image of the me I want you to see.” It’s “This is me right now. But I’m growing, changing. I want to be more. I want to be real with you. I want you to know my strengths and weaknesses. I want to share the joys and harshness of life. I want to be able to talk about the tough stuff with you, and I want you to be able to challenge my way of thinking and behaving.”
Of course, not every moment of girl time is serious, but it’s meaningful. It can be nourishing, healing, uplifting, and challenging. Friendships are risky. They’re messy. But so is life. Life is also full of hope, joy, and possibilities.