I have two questions for you.
- Do you have a safe place?
A judgement-free zone. A place where you can feel free to share what’s on your mind without worrying that people will be so scandalized they’ll never talk to you again.
- Do you have a stretching place that challenges you?
A mediocrity-free zone. A place that inspires you and motivates you to be better.
We need both. We need a place where we can be accepted as we are AND a place where we can be challenged to be more than we ever thought we could be. We need a place that can handle the worst in us AND a place that brings out the best in us.
We call it “a safe place” or “a stretching place”, but really the “place” is secondary to the relationships that happen there. The people are what makes the place scary or safe–discouraging or encouraging.
A Great Example
As Christ-followers, we have the greatest example of this concept. God saved us by grace while we were still in sin and had nothing to offer him. He knew who we were and that we were incapable of pleasing him in our own strength. But he choose to love, save and even adopt us into his family. We were accepted and adopted as we were. THEN, God sets out to help build us into a new creation to display his glory to the world. Consider these three examples.
- The woman caught in adultery was forgiven by Jesus then urged to live a different life. “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way. From now on, sin no more.” John 8:11 (WEB)
- We are saved by grace not because of anything we have done. But, then we are urged to walk in a manner worthy of our calling (with practical suggestions). (Ephesians 2:8, 4:1)
- Paul shows us that “while we were yet weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly…God commends his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Then he urges us to, “by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. 2 Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God.” (Romans 5:6, 8, 12:1-2 WEB)
A Great Challenge
How does your church or small group do at living out these two values of the gospel–acceptance and challenge? How are you doing at putting these into practice?
This is challenging–especially in our day. People speak of tolerance like it is a “Get out of jail free” card. I’m OK, You’re OK. Everybody’s OK. Everything’s OK. Our society wants acceptance without accountability. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people quote Jesus’s words to the woman caught in adultery. They’ll say “Like Jesus said, ‘He who is without sin cast the first stone'” to justify their sin. Jesus did say that. But, he also said “Go and sin no more.” Somehow, our culture loves to quote the first part of that verse but don’t want to think about the second part.
Sometimes we can get out of balance in the other direction. We can offer accountability and challenge without acceptance. That’s just legalism. People never hear our message of love because our verbal or body language sends a different message. We say “Come as you are” but they hear, “Come once you get yourself cleaned up.”
This is a difficult balance, but it is one that we must strive to achieve. People are hurting. God longs to help and rescue them. They need to hear and see the love of God in us. They (and we, ourselves) also need to be challenged to not accept the minimal standards of getting by. God has so much for us to enjoy. He has so much for us to do.
A Helpful Resource
These two needs are at the heart of why I write. This blog is called Encourage and Equip. My hope is to help us grow closer to God and enjoy our relationship with him and our effectiveness for him. I hope to provide or to help us discover the motivation and the tools to live out our faith. I long to help us discover the great wonder of God’s love that we might be called children of God (1 John 3:1). Then I hope to help us grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). Please check back often for more encouragement. Even better, consider subscribing to be among the first to learn of new posts.
How have you seen these principles lived out? How have you lived them out yourself? Is there someone in your life desperately praying for a safe and stretching place. Perhaps God is getting ready to provide that place through you. Please share in the comments below.