Last Sunday at Antioch, Tim Kizziar underscored a point that I really like.
He was talking from the Book of Job about the nature of blessing God as a form of ‘approving of God.’ The converse was cursing God as a form of ‘disapproving of God.’
The interesting point, for me, comes in the relationship between proximity and our approval or disapproval of God. Closeness, friendship, trust and approval tend to come with closeness, nearness or intimacy with God. Frustration, bitterness, anger and disapproval of God tend to come with separation and distance with God.
In short, distance and disapproval seem to go together.
I find this to be somewhat true of relationships in general. Those close to me are forgiving, gracious and understand that I try to do my best even if I sometimes mess things up. Those far from me tend to be unforgiving, ungracious and – because of distance, do not understand the complexities of my situation and merely react or disapprove of shortcomings and failings.
Isn’t this true in your life as well? Don’t those close to you, your friends and family, provide a more forgiving net than strangers or the general public?
Distance and disapproval go together.
I found myself asking which drives the other… does distance lead to disapproval or does disapproval lead to distance? The answer, I believe, is “yes.” Both distance and disapproval can lead to the other. Each, in its own way, can be the engine or the caboose.
If our desire, then, is to remain in a mature, healthy relationship with God and others, we can actively pursue it by either choosing to approve or choosing to approach. Changing our mindset can lead to closer relationships. I know this to be true. If I accept someone for who they are – flaws and all, I naturally will end up closer to that person than if I don’t accept him. Also, if I get close to someone, listen, try to learn, see the big picture, hear her heart and come to understand the reason for the flaws despite the intentions, I naturally end up more accepting of that person.
The bottom line, it seems to me, is that the burden of responsibility for relationships rests with me. I can, if I choose, create the circumstances for relationship, community, grace, closeness and approval.
Maybe this is why the Great Command is for us to love God and love others – rather than be loved by God and be loved by others. It is an active command. It is obedience and work on our part. It is choosing to draw close and seeking to understand. Ultimately, it is an act of the will to move away from the starting point of distance and disapproval. It is not passive. It is my responsibility.
What gives us the strength to act on this?
Here is the irony. What usually keeps us from acting – even setting itself up as justification for not acting, is distance and disapproval.
He’s not worth it. God failed me first. That church isn’t relational. She’s weird. He’s a jerk. They’re not good Christians. I don’t think they like me. Strange clothes, tattoos, funny clothes – it’s all very strange. I just can’t get over what he did to me. She is a threat. God can’t possibly love me. I pushed it all away because I am the victim.
Distance and disapproval fill the same driver’s seat that love needs to steer the car.
So, again, what gives us the strength to act on this?
Humility. We’re imperfect too.
Practice. People, like everything else, take practice.
Humor. Many of the things we judge in others can just as easily be laughed at. G.K. Chesterton said, “Angels fly because they take themselves lightly.”
Submission. We have to love. It’s what God commands… we have to obey even despite our petty grievances.
Encouragement. This usually works best by giving some first. It’ll come back around.
Scripture. It lays our heart bare. Change happens best when we’re not being defensive… scripture is hard to argue with.
Church. What better place to practice grace than in a funky system with messed up, hypocritical people?
Saying sorry. Our relationship with others stems from our relationship with God. Our relationship with God stems from our ability to be honest. We’ve lost the ability in American Christianity, I think, to say we’re sorry to God. If we can’t ask forgiveness, we can’t be honest, we can’t sustain His fellowship and all is lost. It’s no wonder that most biblical portraits of our relationship with God begin with the word repent.
Distance and Disapproval. Do the opposite.