Halloween is over so it must be Christmas. At least as far as social media and marketing gurus are concerned. Before I go any further, let me state in no uncertain terms – this is completely wrong. But I’m not a social media wiz or a marketing guru so let’s move on.
There’s a video making the rounds called “The Other Letter.” It’s a first out of the box Christmas offering from IKEA and despite the fact that it’s not even Thanksgiving, it’s wonderful. Take a moment:
I’m drawn to “The Other Letter” because it’s a simple illustration of a profound truth. Relationships matter. (That IKEA had to be the one to remind us of this foundational Christian concept is only a minor irritation to me.) As the video cleverly illustrates, not only do relationships matter, relationships take time. They’re cultivated through attentiveness and care. And it’s this time, care and attention that people crave.
Though I doubt they realized the extent of their discovery, here is the secret IKEA has stumbled upon: people blossom when others are willing to invest energy and love in building relationships.
But why is that important for faith sharing? Because faith sharing is less about passing on information and more about building relationships. And that is because sharing faith is rooted in the very nature of God.
Our God is a God of relationship. From the beginning, God has desired a relationship of love and wholeness with something other than God. That’s why God created us in the first place. And God cares for, nourishes and sustains all of creation out of that relationship of love. God became human in Jesus – the ultimate sign of God’s desire to be in a relationship of love with all people. And God continues to reach out in love to us through the movement of God’s Holy Spirit, providing comfort and strength, nudging us toward wholeness and spiritual maturity, empowering us with boldness and courage.
This isn’t to diminish the importance of teaching what Christians believe. But when we share faith with others, we don’t tell them what they should believe. We tell them what we believe – and more importantly, who we trust, which brings us once again to relationship.
Sharing faith is about modeling God’s relationship of love for others. As we cultivate our relationship of trust and love with God, we cultivate relationships of love and trust with others.
The importance of relationship – of rooting our sharing in the nature of God – has often been overlooked in the United States; because for so many years, we’ve had the “home field advantage” and exercise cultural privilege (often without even realizing it). We’ve taken much for granted when it comes to sharing faith. That situation is rapidly changing.
But we shouldn’t lose heart. I’m with Ed Stetzer when he says we may have opportunities we have rarely known until now – not to moralize or to tell the world what they should believe. But to walk in relationships of love and trust with both God and others.
IKEA has uncovered an important truth – relationships are everything. As Christians, we shouldn’t need a furniture store to remind us of that. Our God is a God of relationship, God who desires to be in a relationship of love and wholeness with all people. And before others will be able to hear that good news from your lips, they must have experienced it in your life.