Reach Out and Touch Someone

miami_package_feelthehealdetoxGod’s family is certainly not exempt from hurt, including the hurts that come from within. People in churches are just as vulnerable to unjustly criticize, gossip, neglect, and offend one another as anyone else. It’s true that God sets us apart to reflect his image to the world, but to believe Christ-followers are perfect representations of Jesus will, to say the least, lead to disappointment. What (should) set Christ-followers apart from the world is how they deal with one another to heal the hurt. Will they do the hard work it takes to unite or will they further divide into quarreling, backbiting, judgmental factions? Which will you choose? Today wraps up Healing the Hurt, a 10-post series to help hurting communities cope in biblical ways.

It’s difficult to keep a distance from somebody and touch them at the same time. Physically, it’s impossible. Emotionally, it’s nearly impossible unless you’re very good at denying emotional response and withholding compassion. Touch requires closeness, and closeness reflects relationship engagement. It’s easy to stand across the room from somebody and judge, spite, ignore, begrudge, and build a dividing wall between “us” and “them.” You can even avoid eye contact as you meet someone in the hall or pretend not to have brushed shoulders in the shifting crowd. You might be able to shake hands with a cold commitment. But what if you intentionally shake hands and make eye contact at the same time? Add a warm smile? How judgmental can you be then, regardless of what your attitude has been prior to that time?

We’re not all touchy-feeling people, and I’m certainly not suggesting a huge hug-fest in the church foyer. However, approaching someone with whom you have opposing opinions to inquire about his or her work week, family, or other concern or interest beyond the opposing opinion spurs you to stand on common ground. You may or may not be able to stand on common ground in the area of disagreement, but you can find other common ground even if it’s the simple fact that you are both Christ-followers who are passionate about seeking and following his will. Acknowledging and committing to stand on common ground helps highlight the similarities of your relationship instead of focusing on the dividing wall you’re steadily building by keeping your distance. When you build a dividing wall on the common ground you share, it’s much more difficult to stand on that same common ground!

Reach out and touch someone. It doesn’t have to be a hug. Simply rest your hand on someone’s shoulder. Gently touch someone’s arm as you ask how her week has been. As you shake someone’s hand, place your other hand over her hand and hold it for several seconds as you look into her eyes and remind her you’ve been praying for the situation. Of if you’re a natural hugger, gauge your motivation to hug. Is it simply a meaningless habit? Do your hugs really mean anything, or are they received as an obligatory handshake? Think intentionally when you reach out and touch someone. You can touch someone without much thought or purpose, but reaching out takes intention and effort.

Reaching out builds a bridge. It personalizes the relationship. When you reach out and touch someone, you’re reminded the person with whom you’re most irritated is a living, breathing person. God created her, and he loves her. He wants you to see the value he gave her, not the value you give her. When you reach out and touch someone, you also become a bit more “real” to a person. You cannot control the value someone else assigns to you, but you always have a choice to perpetuate a judgmental stereotype and assumption or invite someone into a growing relationship. Actively engage with the people with who you disagree. It’s not the easy choice, but God wants you to honor relationships.

Love each other like brothers and sisters. Give each other more honor than you want for yourselves. (Romans 12:10)

The Benefits of a Language Barrier

©2015 PurePurpose.org
©2015 PurePurpose.org

I sat at Cafe Hillel, enjoying my hot cocoa and a good book. Most of the time, I was people-watching. It was my last day in Jerusalem, and I wanted to savor every moment. I had walked throughout many parts of the city. I watched people in their everyday routines. I noticed mannerisms. I caught parts of conversation.

I love hearing people speak in different languages. The foreign sounds have an intriguing beauty. Of course, the language barrier can be frustrating at times, too, but I have found there are many ways to bridge the gap, and the effort is always worth it. It creates a focused connection. It’s not really a benefit of the language barrier itself; the benefit is more about overcoming the language barrier.

As I sat at Cafe Hillel, I discovered a benefit of the language barrier. A man sitting nearby was speaking loudly on his phone. His tone was animated, but that’s not unusual in his native tongue. It didn’t assume anger, just passion and excitement. His voice was difficult to avoid, and I found myself lulled by the pattern of the conversation.

The moment was shattered when he broke into English. It took me a moment to readjust and realize what I was hearing. He was talking about someone, using extremely derogatory language. I often think people have mastered a language when they can accurately use humor, especially sarcasm. I don’t know how funny this man could have been, but he had certainly mastered a plethora of offensive words in English.

Thankfully, his tirade (at least, in English) lasted less than a minute. My peace was temporarily rattled. I could still hear him continue in his native tongue, but I didn’t find it nearly as soothing.

Maybe not fully understand everything and everyone around us is a blessing at times. Let’s bridge the gaps when we can but realize that sometimes understanding is not a must.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

Building Bridges

The farther the distance between two points, the more effort, time and materials building a bridge between those two points will be required.

It seems obvious, doesn’t it?

Consider the application in relationships.

In the early years of our marriage, Tim and I often “discussed” our differences. I had one viewpoint. He had another. The discussion ensued. It rarely started as an argument. In fact, we usually began fairly close in our stances. We shared more than differed in our viewpoints. However, we noticed the differences and often focused on them. We each stood our ground more firmly as we continued. As we focused more and more on the differences, we created an ever-widening chasm.

While we might have started mere inches away from each other, our focus on those inches magnify and multiplied them. The distance between us exponentially grew.

Had we chosen to build a bridge when there were mere inches between us, the building process would have required minimal time and effort. The wider the chasm, the more time, materials, and effort are required.

What chasms exist in your relationships right now?

Are you currently building a bridge or creating a wider chasm?

If you’re widening the chasm, consider your willingness to invest more time and effort into building a bridge. If you’re not willing to spend increasingly more time and effort, quit widening the chasm.

Tim and I were hiking recently and were on a path where we could walk side by side. We were holding hands as we approached a large rock in the middle of the path. He walked to one side, and I walked to the other – but we continued to hold hands. I told him I wanted to only walk as far away from him as was possible while holding hands. Of course, I was speaking metaphorically. I know we can’t always literally walk side-by-side and hand-in-hand.

Relationally-speaking, I don’t want to create or allow more distance than is necessary – in any of my relationships. I know there will be times of distance in relationships, which means I know there will be bridge-building. I’d rather spend most of my time and energy walking with the people in my life than separated from them and building bridges from across wide chasms.

I beg you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that all of you agree with each other and not be split into groups. I beg that you be completely joined together by having the same kind of thinking and the same purpose. (1 Corinthians 1:10)