Happy New Year everyone. Rob here.
Last week our family was camping in one of our best beach towns: Whitianga, in the beautiful Coromandel area. The weather was sunny and warm. The surf was friendly and fun. But what made the holiday special was people. Once everyone had settled in, the campground became a friendly, chatty and safe place where friendships were forged among children and adults, if only for a season.
In the end our quality of life depends on the quality of our relationships. I am blessed with a loving marriage and family, some close friends and a healthy church, but I also know that I have a lot of work to do in this area. I tend to be out an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ kind of person. This isn’t helpful when much of my family and many of my best friends live out of town, and even, out of country. However, this is a better problem to have than relationships that are broken through resentments, hatred, unforgiveness and self-centredness. For the Christian, who knows that relationships matter, these situations can be a terrible burden. It can feel that it’s all up to you to fix it.
Paul writes some very liberating words for us on this in Romans 12:18 where he says:
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Sometimes there is only so much we can do. I can’t make weekly calls to all my friends and family and you can’t reconcile with people who don’t want to reconcile with you. You can’t fix someone else’s bitterness. You can’t change people’s opinions to suit yours. Bonnie Raitt once sang, “I can’t make you love me.” No, but we can choose to love even if that love isn’t returned. We can choose to pray for others, but we don’t have to spend much time with people who prefer to tear down than build up. Having effective boundaries is about guarding your heart so that it grows and doesn’t wither. It’s far better to have a short and positive encounter than a long, negative one. It’s also about having the boundaries that Jesus would have if he were you. This means that we need to make room for the broken, the sinner and the outsider. The ones that Jesus let in though, were seekers – people who wanted help. He kept the hard-hearted at arms length. he even said to his disciples in Luke 9:5,
If people do not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave their town, as a testimony against them.
Jesus had strong boundaries, even though he had a hugely generous heart. The gates to his heart were open for those who genuinely sought God. So, what is God saying to you about your relationships this year? Are your gates closed to too many people? Are they open to too many, and some are causing damage? Have you only been open to those who help you, but have been closed to helping others? Like me, have you been a bit lazy and neglectful towards those who actually help you grow stronger?
May you invite Jesus into your heart. May you be open to him and clothe yourself with his heart and his boundaries. May you see with his eyes and know his invitations to reach out to some, and back away from others. Most of all, may all of us be clothed in the love of Christ so that only the love of Christ passes between us and all people. As Paul wrote, may we all play our part, as we are able, to live at peace with others and be a blessing to this world. May we show a way of relating that points to the goodness of God and his love towards us.
Grace and peace everyone.