I recently finished reading the latest book by Erwin Raphael McManus, The Last Arrow. (I wrote a book review on it last week.) The following quote from the book was one of the most thought-provoking for me:
“In fact, if the Scriptures are to be taken seriously, there is no journey toward God that does not bring us to each other. You might begin the journey alone, but the place where God is taking you is a land called Together…It’s odd how we prioritize the things that matter to us. We choose a career or job; we choose a city or place to live. We make so many things important to us, but in all the things we factor in as we craft our futures, we make the people in our lives a commodity of, at best, secondary importance. We would take a job and give up our people rather than choose a tribe and give up the job. We don’t say it like this, but many of us have been mentored by a culture that makes money more important than relationships. You can always meet new people; you can always make new friends; you can always find a new church. In our way of thinking, these are expendable, replaceable aspects of our lives. When it comes to relationships, many of us have chosen to be mercenaries.” [McManus, Erwin Raphael. The Last Arrow: Save Nothing for the Next Life (p. 148). Kindle Edition.]
Wow. My thinking was stimulated and challenged on this. It was a perspective I had never heard expressed, nor considered – choosing a tribe, choosing people, and staying with them rather than going wherever a career or job or favorable climate lead us to live.
The truth is that many of us live as though people and our relationships are expendable. As a pastor, I see people change churches often. They don’t like the music, or they don’t like the pastor, or they get offended in one way or another, someone lets them down or disappoints them, or they just get bored and want something new. Sometimes the issues run much deeper than that and are much more complex, but that is often not the case.
And it’s not just an issue of churches and lay people. I’ve done the same thing as a pastor, and I know a lot of pastors who do the same thing. Yes, God sometimes calls us to a new ministry in a new town. Sometimes He brings us into a new season and a new location. But sometimes, to be honest, we run from our problems and seek a new ministry location rather than face the hard issues or work through our problems and problematic relationships and issues. Sometimes it’s easier to uproot ourselves and our families than it is to face conflict, try to deal with it, and grow through it.
Please don’t read this as me saying none of us should ever leave, none of us should ever end a relationship, none of us should ever move, change jobs, or make transitions in our lives. God absolutely leads us to different places and relationships at different seasons in our lives. I am simply pointing out that sometimes in our transitions, we look more at personal gain rather than listen to God – or consider the cost in relationships. How different our lives – and our society – might be if relationships became a primary consideration in our life choices.
We are all part of the same Body. We are called to represent the Body, to live as the Body, and to love as the Body.
How fortunate for us that God never considers a single one of us as expendable. May we continue to learn to love and honor one another as He loves and honors us!