“We go off in search of what has from all eternity sought and found us…fishing for minnows while standing on a whale.” – Martin Laird, Into the Silent Land

You see, what worries me is that if I go through all these efforts to read good books and seek out wise counsel to learn better and better relationship skills, I still have to apply all those skills in a way that kindles things that matter; things that are, shall we say, of longterm value in the souls of others. Yet what if I fail to carry it out in ways that benefit them much? What if ultimately I’m merely intellectually curious to learn to do good, but too spiritually lazy to follow it through? Yes, that’s what worries me.

On the other hand, what if I did take every opportunity to apply myself meaningfully, traveling my circle well, communing with this person and that, and cultivating thereby a lifetime of at least satisfactory relational habits, yet leave out the critical piece of carrying an attitude of grace and forgiveness to everyone along my journey? It seems, then, I’d have little chance of fulfilling much of the second greatest commandment—to love my neighbor as myself (Mt 22:39). It would all just be a superficial effort. And that worries me also.

I don’t lose sleep over this, mind you. It’s not that kind of worry. It’s just an underlying sense that if I don’t get a move on and stop the self-focus, quit the comparison game already, I might well remain one who justifies my less-than-altruistic behaviors based on the failings of others rather than genuinely focusing on improving my own behavior, and I’d miss my opportunities to influence them for good. What I mean is, I worry I’m not growing the way I should.

But then I read the Bible, and I think how silly I am to worry about this at all. Because there’s this first greatest commandment in there that Jesus spoke about: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Mt 22:37). Which as I understand it, when practiced, will eventually—eventually, I say—necessarily lead to the “love my neighbor” commandment He mentioned is second.

And come to think of it, since it is God—the source of grace and forgiveness Himself—who says that I am predestined to be conformed into the image of His Son (Rom 8:29; 2 Cor 3:18), it is all a fait accompli. He will one day make me into everything I’m supposed to relationally be. In that light, I believe I’m seeing it more clearly now: If I focus on growing more in love with God, I will naturally take hold of the changes He is making in me, and I will naturally get better at pouring love into the relationships He places before me. 

So now I’m not worried at all.

I hope this encourages you to grow in your relationships today.

Kevin Murray

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