by Rick Love
Getting connected with people is a great joy! Staying connected with people can be a labor of love.
Recently, I was struck by something I read in “Introduction to the Devout Life,” by Francis De Sales, during my morning reading. He asked, “How is your heart disposed to your neighbor? Do you love him with your whole heart and out of love for God? To determine this correctly, you must picture to yourself troublesome and disagreeable persons. It is among them that we exercise love of God toward our neighbor.”
I felt personally convicted and immediately made a list of four people with whom I needed to upgrade my relationship. I spent the early hours of that same morning praying for them and thinking of practical ways I could best serve, encourage, and help them grow. As I prayed and meditated, the Lord strengthened me through Hebrews 10:38 – “But my righteous one shall live by faith; and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in Him.” I realized that the only way I can work through difficult relations is if I don’t shrink back! And I realized that it pleases God when I don’t shrink back.
Twice in his farewell address to the elders at Ephesus, Paul says, “I did not shrink back” or “I have not hesitated” (Acts 20:20,27). Paul was bold about communicating truth. He repeated this phrase twice because he knew that the elders (and readers) would continually be tempted to shrink back from dealing with issues that need to be addressed. Whether it’s teaching the hard parts of Scripture or confronting hard relational issues, leaders must not shrink back.
It is tempting to let fears control relationships. Fear of rejection, abandonment, or the fear of angry responses to our appeals may cause you to shrink back. Ultimately though, I think some leaders shrink back because of unbelief and lack of love. Peacemaking is an issue of faith and love. If you believe that what God says about godly relationships is true, then you must act on it. If you really love someone, you must work on the relationship even when you don’t feel like it.
Who would be on your list? Are there things you need to talk about with your spouse, but you’ve been shrinking back? Are there issues with your co-workers, friends or neighbors that you’ve been avoiding? May it one day be said of you: “S/he did not shrink back!”