Romans 12 | Part 4
“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” - Romans 12:16 NIV
Family. Friendships. Classmates. Marriage. Neighbors. More family. In-laws. Church relationships. Work friendships. Strangers. Future friends.
I could go on and on with the different ages and stages of life and the relationships that embellish them. When we are told to "live in harmony with one another," a simple concept becomes a difficult task!
Some of these relationships we don't give another thought, like our family—we are born into them, and we accept them as they are. We may have favorites, but we work together with a common goal; keeping the home a reasonably peaceful place, making sure the kids are fed and clothed, getting everyone through adolescence, teen years, high school grades. If we are blessed, we have many people that want to speak love, life, and light, into our futures.
Then we fall in love and are faced with another whole dynamic of relationships: IN-LAWS.
I don't know if anyone else ever thought about in-laws, but in my life, this has been one of the most challenging connections to navigate. To pray for my in-laws (and my own parents' relationship with us) was not something I did as a single woman, and when I met my husband, I didn't factor in that I'd be considering all these other people's feelings for the rest of my natural life. Add in grandkids, activities, career moves, vacation time, and all the details of dysfunctional family life, and it was a recipe for disaster, over and over again! Still, we tried hard to make everyone happy by sharing our free time and making memories. We ask for forgiveness, love with a dose of grace, and forgive over and over again.
In Christian circles and small towns, to meet people, find our commonalities, and build relationships was a no-brainer. Mutual respect and love of God made it easy.
Sometimes it is too easy, though, and it can be hard to remember to keep ourselves open to the new people God puts in our paths. It takes a dose of brave to go beyond our comfort zone and reach out to new faces, especially when they are not in the same age, stage, ability, race, or economic bracket as us. We forget that in Kingdom living, He has turned it all upside down. Financial success and good health is not a part of God's equation. The least of these have great value. The last will be first. The Shepherd leaves the herd to find the one lost sheep. Our worth is not based on what we do or achieve, but simply obedience to Him. To love God and love others has great value.
Now with mask-wearing and gathering restrictions in place, we may think that we are off the hook in the area of reaching out, but our ministry to others may have never faced a more urgent need. People are lonely, and more people are facing economic uncertainty than ever before. We have the opportunity, even if we are in need ourselves, to be salt and light, and to speak truth and life into other people's hearts and minds. We do not need to put our health at risk, and we certainly don't want to put others in harm's way, but we can provide encouragement through a kind word, a card or note left on the door or mailed, or even a phone call or text to let people know that we are thinking of them. If it is an option, consider giving gifts of cleaning supplies and non-perishable food items to people directly (safely), or through donating to a local food bank.
God did not make us all the same, but He created us all in His image. Because of God's love for all people, we can celebrate the differences. Because of His patience with us, we can overcome any obstacles. Because of His kindness, we can see the God-flavors He has developed in us, and create new friendships. Because of Jesus.