Wednesday 17 February 2016

Working with people

I don't work much with people these days.  I'm mostly alone and, when I do interact with people, it's more commonly in the modes of helping them, being listened to or hanging out than in a situation of working together to achieve common goals.

However, I'm now on one of our church committees and have recently had a slight 'baptism of fire' in this regard.  One of the members of the committee said something to me in an email last week that really stung.  He did this only a couple of days before we were due to meet again, so I knew I needed to process my hurt fast if I were to be able to face him again with good grace!

That drove me to prayer and Bible reading with more urgency than I've experienced in a while.

At the moment, Martin, Sarah and I are reading our way through the New Testament, and we'd just finished reading Philippians.

One of my visceral responses to what had been said was: 'how dare you assume something like that about me - don't you know I'm one of the good people!'  But, as I prayed, I remembered these words we'd just read in Paul's letter to the church at Philippi:
If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.
Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith.

This is a truth I tend to forget: my righteousness, my 'OK-ness', isn't based on who I am and what a good person I am.  Actually, I'm not a good person, but I've been made the same as a good person by Jesus' work.  So I began to pray that I wouldn't hold on to all the things that I'd hoped my fellow committee-member would see in me; that I would, indeed, myself hold them for the rubbish they were and rely on Christ for my sense of righteousness.

That helped me get through the next meeting with good grace - as did the fact that it was a prayer meeting, and I was able to refocus on our common purpose rather than my grievance :-)

Then, on Sunday I listened to this talk, from the IFES world assembly in Mexico last year (the international conference of the parent body of the Christian group I was involved in at university).  It's from Philippians again, and I was particularly struck by this bit:
I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now.  I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.

In her message, Sabine Kalthoff encouraged her audience to take some time to joyfully thank God for their fellow-workers.  So I did so, taking time to think of the good I knew of in this one person and also thanking God for their willingness to step up and take on their role in their committee and for the road that had led them there.

By this time, in our Bible reading we were up to Paul's pastoral letters to his protegĂ©, Timothy.  In the second of these, he encourages Timothy to stick to the work to which he has been called, saying:
No one serving in the army gets entangled in everyday affairs; the soldier’s aim is to please the enlisting officer. And in the case of an athlete, no one is crowned without competing according to the rules.

Which reminded me to focus on the task to which I'd been called in serving on this committee, rather than on my own reputation and the respect in which I might or might not be held!

I'm so grateful to God for leading me through this process with his word.  I'm still a bit ginger around this person (I don't want to get hurt again, after all!), but my perspective has significantly changed.  I can see that we both are responding to the same call from God by being in this position, and I do genuinely thank God for him - even if I remain a little nervous about exactly how we will manage to work together!

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