It’s that time of year again. Time to brace ourselves for the onslaught of new year slogans, prophetic words, and goals. Goals are an interesting concept to me in light of our journey with God. For starters, as Christians, there is an element of alignment, right? I mean our goals should start as His goals. Desires, destiny, purpose, goals, for the Christian, carry an added burden almost. They should in some way impart hope to the world around us in some way. So, where should we start?
I saw a friend last night that I haven’t seen in a while. I felt like I was supposed to ask her about what she was doing with the ministry God had given her. She said it was funny because she is in a place where she just doesn’t know what her ministry is. I sensed her searching for fresh hope. She and her husband served in a church for many years and about 8 years ago disillusionment set in hard and they left the church. Since then they have been on a difficult journey of pain and healing.
I suddenly realized the first thing Father told me to share with her was really Him and not me (see, I thought she knew this already and felt dumb saying it). I told her that I wanted her to know that when we see her, we don’t see someone from church that we helped. We see her in our circle, as one of us. She began to tear up. She thanked me, saying it meant a lot to her and she really needed to hear it.
What God is showing me from that encounter is that before people can write visions and goals, they need to know they belong.
Our friends, Dave and Kris Toyne, have a giant banner on the wall of their church that says, “Belong, Believe, Become.” Now that is a yearly slogan I can get behind! Here is the thing, it’s not just for this year. It’s permanent. They always believe that and it’s always their goal for people.
I would like for all of us this year to make this our new permanent slogan. Let’s start off and finish every year with helping everyone know that they belong. Everyone.
Thomas Merton says in his book Raids on the Unspeakable:
“You are not big enough to accuse the whole age effectively, but let us say you are in dissent. You are in no position to issue commands, but you can speak words of hope. Shall this be the substance of your message? Be human in this most inhuman of ages; guard the image of man for it is the image of God.”
I believe Merton shares some deep wisdom with us here. Wisdom that comes from the heart of the Father. Wisdom that could be revolutionary if we could bring it with us into this year.
We, the church, may be in dissent with much of culture. If we are honest with ourselves we have spent a lot of time accusing and issuing commands with little authority to enforce them. To be honest, if we had authority to enforce some of our convictions as laws, I think we might be unpleasantly surprised at the result. Like I used to hear Jack say, “Rules without relationship leads to rebellion.”
But what if we spoke “words of hope?” What if we took the approach Merton suggests here? What if we remained human in this age of “otherness,” where we see people in terms of political and ideological groups? What if we guarded or valued other people as the image of God? What if we communicated to people, all people, that they belong? What if we tried to understand why they don’t feel they belong?
The idea of humans being the image of God is called the Imago Dei. When Trisha speaks she shares that one of the definitions of dishonor is to treat people as common. You might say it’s to fail to acknowledge the image of God in which they were created, just as you were.
I’ve heard Danny Silk say it like this, “We don’t honor people because THEY deserve honor. We honor people because WE are honorable.”
Let’s let our God nature bring out their God nature. Maybe people need to know they belong to realize who it is they really are. And maybe, just maybe, we can bring change in ourselves, our churches and our nation by extending belonging. This Kingdom of God is far-reaching.
Let’s make our goal this year to speak words of hope, to be kind. Let’s represent the Father’s hope and heart in this most inhuman of ages. Our challenge may be figuring out what hope is to someone different from us, with different ideas. Good News brings hope. The Good News is that we belong. He made the way. If we belong, we will believe. If we believe, then we will become the person that fulfills the destiny, calling and purposes He has for us.
Blessings on your 2018,