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Chapter 20 - Seeking relationship
Unlike our relationship with God which is open and available all the time, or family relationships into which we are born, relationships with other people often begin with a tentative inquiry to see if there might be reciprocal interest.
A fellow once expressed his hesitancy in asking a girl out. He was fearful of rejection. He was told that if he imagined the worst possible reaction to his inquiry (it was suggested that it might be the girl climbing on top of a table, pointing at him, and laughingly ridiculing him in front of others), he might respond with gratitude that she would so soon reveal her character deficiencies before he wasted time and money on her. This helped him to gain some perspective that rejection was not to be feared as much as the thought and could even be beneficial.
Initial dating inquires are usually made in the most general terms. For example, the suggestion that one might be interested in getting together for coffee at some unspecified point in the future can be floated out and if the response is affirmative, one might move to suggesting something specific. However, if the response is to decline citing schedule difficulties or other obstacles, one can move on without having risked much.
If the Christian desirous of relationships with other Christians reaches out to inquire if anyone is interested in a friendship relationship, he may be disappointed to discover a lack of interest on the part of other Christians. Modern Christian practice often sees 'religious' life restricted to church activities, events, and programs. Hearing of Christ or faith outside of these zones can seem 'creepy' to many who profess to follow Christ.
The mature Christian may have to face superficial one-sided relationships where he is only tolerated to suggest obliquely some element of Christian life, and then only occasionally. At some point the mature Christian may just withdraw from time spent in just the same way as it would be spent with those who do not believe. The Christian who hungers for the deeper things of the Lord may not be satisfied with a relationship in which he starves.
While the biblical presentation of Christian fellowship is within the context of extended family and network of believers, today truncated families and superficial relationships tend to focus opportunities for ministry on scripted roles within an organizational system context. Since most Christians see 'ministry' in terms of organizational component function, there will often be reluctance to a solicitation of relationship unless it excludes a Christian context. This is because most see such references as only being appropriate in church.
In today’s society many have daily schedules that are completely filled. Even if they had an interest in Christian friendships, they have no time for them. One may find only 2% of Christians open to accepting an inter-personal relationship (friendship) in which Christ, the bible, or faith has any role. Some think such discussion only appropriate in church, others that a person may be trying to manipulate them or make them feel inferior, and some may be fearful that any discussion could foster doubt or error. As a result, one may have to visit many churches to find even one person who would be open to Christian friendship.
The mature Christian may not be seeking a relationship with other Christians so much for himself (like the consumer relationships of the world), but rather a connection through which the leading and working of the Holy Spirit can be observed and appreciated. For example, in a group of Christians one might observe the sullen teenager, isolated elder, or frantic mother to whom an expression of interest might be appreciated.
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