Just about every news cycle shows people on a college campus, city hall, and even at the U.S. Capitol yelling at each other. There is no curiosity to investigate the real facts; it is usually driven by emotion and a sense of self-righteousness. There is no relationship or willingness to listen to another viewpoint. Many people in politics, and sadly it is often no different in our local church, drop a verbal assault bomb and then run away with no intention of developing or repairing the relationship.
I grew up in a in a family where everyone just did their own thing. I don’t ever remember talking about feelings, emotions, or intentional responses. We just yelled at each other when we got mad and then walked away when we got weary of the fight. It was not until I was an adult, that I realized how I was using that model to cope with disappointment, anger, and frustration with family, friends, and co-workers. It has taken years of practice, along with and many apologies when I have failed to react in a healthy, God-honoring manner.
I must choose daily, sometimes hourly, to stay in right relationship with people. Sometimes people say and do things that are contrary to my beliefs as a disciple of King Jesus. My response means everything to the future of our relationship and how they see Jesus in me. If I choose to stand on my opinion, a political viewpoint, cultural issue of the day, or their misunderstanding of scripture, I have lost an opportunity for conversation. I have lost the opportunity to share the gospel. Listening does not mean you agree, it means you value that person enough to hear them. Curiosity is a powerful tool. Listening to them does not mean you have watered-down theology, or don’t firmly place your allegiance in Jesus Christ, it means you show patience and kindness to those who have church hurt, don’t share your same opinion, political viewpoint, or theology.
From the very beginning of our church plant we do “shepherding” every single week. We go through the list of attenders and church partners. If we have not seen them for a while, we contact them. Most the time they tell us they were out of town, sick, or just had too many things going on. Sometimes I hear that they are mad and leaving the church over a decision, or a comment made by a pastor, staff, or volunteer. Sometimes they tell me they are upset about a doctrinal issue, or the lack of focus on an issue or current hot topic. When I am on the other end of that conversation, I have two choices: get defensive and argue with them or stay curious and ask good questions. It can be hard or discouraging hearing them rant about the reason they are upset, but staying focused and attentive can give me the opportunity to understand their broken belief system and dig a bit deeper into their hurt and to fight for the relationship.
Chasing those who run from relationship is hard. Not going after them is easy and reckless. The shepherd’s job is to seek the lost, bring back the strays, care for the wounded, and strengthen the weak. Let’s encourage each other to press into the hard and chase the strays.
This post originally appeared at: Why Chasing People Who Run from Relationship is Hard | Relational Discipleship Network (rdn1.com)