Three weeks ago a very dear friend mailed me a devotional book that was very instrumental in her growth, I would like to share a little bit about what I've learned from it.
This devotional has broken Romans 12 up into five parts – Surrender, Separate, Sober, Serve, and Stand Down. The section that has had the biggest impact on me is titled Serve. This section is farther broken up into the categories of Authenticity, Abhor Evil, Meeting Real Needs, Right Reasons, and In the Right Way.
I think the reason this section has had such an impact on me, is because this is where I have just come from and am still trying the; most intently to work on. I have Surrendered my life to God and because of that I have Separated from the world in many ways, and am still Separating in many others. Last summer I participated in a bible study with some other girls from my youth group, we did a book called Me, Myself, and Lies. It was really helpful in letting me see how I saw myself and getting me to the point where I now see myself – trust me, there has been improvement. That was Sobering. Semester helped me relate to other’s who held the same – or very similar – beliefs that I hold. That is Serving.
“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” Romans 12:9-13
Section One – Authenticity
“Authentic community occurs when the real you meets the real needs of other people for the right reasons and in the right way.” – Chip Ingram
The first section, you guessed it, talks about being authentic with other Christians. So, how can we be authentic? It’s like Paul says in Romans 12:9, “Love must be sincere.”
The devotional puts it like this,
“Contrary to popular belief, the most powerful force in the world isn’t a nuclear bomb. It isn’t a powerful army. It isn’t a natural disaster. It’s love. That’s because love has the power to change hearts…Love has the power to break down walls in people’s hearts that they probably couldn’t even identify. Love melts walls built out of bitterness and hurt. Love has the ability to heal deep wounds, to neutralize the poison of pain. Even now, as you continue to go deeper in your relationship with God, His love is speaking into your heart and changing you, healing you. It’s powerful. And it’s exactly why God wants love to be the driving force behind the relationships we have with other believers.”
That’s easy! is probably something that you’re saying at this point – it’s what I said anyway. As I read this part I thought that it wouldn’t be that big of a deal I mean, come on, I already love these people, so obviously this section doesn’t apply to me – so I rushed through the rest of it just to get it over with. Then I got to the very end of devo. Right after it gave the quote from Chip Ingram that I started off with, it says, “The foundational first step of all of that? The real you has to show up.” My next thought was simply, “Oh.”
So often I hide my true feelings and struggles just so I can keep up the charade that everything is perfect and even that I myself am perfect. “Well, what’s wrong with perfect?” was a question I, almost automatically and very defensively, asked myself. Absolutely nothing – but that’s not the point, you see, humans aren’t perfect; we physically cannot be perfect. So when I try to act like I am I’m lying to those around me. When I live my life gauging what I assume other’s opinions and reactions will be to my own opinions and actions, I make decisions, and act accordingly, based on what other people think and even sometimes based on what I think other people think. In doing this I am hiding away from having authentic communities and instead have given myself and those around me superficial communities where, when it gets right down to it, nobody honesty knows anybody.
I know that I’m not the only one who does this, not by a long shot, but when I realized that I tend to stand in the way of authentic relationships and making authentic community impossible I felt convicted. But shortly after that I felt fear – what if I’m the only one willing to love sincerely? What if I get hurt?
I realized very quickly that I’m not the only one, I know of several people that love with sincerity all the time and there are many more out there like me that just need a little encouragement to step off the stage and into being real. As to my second question, the answer wasn’t as comforting. I will get hurt. Anytime you open yourself up and show who you real are, you open yourself up to getting hurt and there will be people out there who take advantage of that. What I realized is that to love sincerely I have to follow Jesus’ example. He loves with more sincerity that is possible for me to love – agape – He allowed Himself to be killed because of His love for us. Knowing that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there will be people out there that will hurt me, but I have Someone that has been through far more that I’m likely to ever go through. And besides that, I’ve got some authentic friends to help me through. :]