The above passage is taken from one of the Pauline Epistles, a group of letters that Paul (and likely some of his mentees) wrote to a church that he had previously planted on his missionary journey. Their contents include checking in to provide encouragement and prayer, as well as offering loving correction or even stern responses to controversies plaguing the health and growth of the body of Christ. In all of the writing, whether a critique of behavior or a longing prayer, it is clear that there is an authentic relationship there, rooted in the love of Jesus, and the desire for them to experience the fullness of life that God promises his faithful.
I love his approach, and this passage in particular has been very formative in the lived expression of my faith. I pray that one of the results of the faith of followers of Jesus would be that “our love for others would continue to deepen,” that those we interact with would become “very dear” to us, and we would “so deeply care” for our spheres of influence that we can’t help but share the good news and our lives as well with them.
To me, some of the best ways to build relationships that can foster the type of depth that Paul describes here involve the following elements:
- Consistency – That we make it a priority to spend time together
- Not having an agenda – Sharing in one other’s presence without an ulterior motive
- Active listening – To earn the right to be heard by someone else by listening, not just waiting to speak
- Share life stories – Each of us has a story that is valuable, filled with miracles small and large from our God who loves us. One of the great ways of connecting with one another can simply be from telling and listening to the events of life that have shaped us along the way
- “Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary use words” – The great quote from Francis of Assisi has endured for a reason, it’s true. Every interaction we have with someone is an opportunity to reflect the love the God has for his creation, often times words might fail where a held hand, a smile, or a hug can soothe weary souls
Grace and peace be with you as you share your life and the gospel as well!