Have you ever wished that some people in your life would stop treating you as though you were the same person that you used to be, when they know you are no longer that person? You have changed. But how they look at you has not changed. Wouldn't it be great if people wouldrelate to us on the level of who we have become now or, better yet, who we are becoming?
A few years ago, I went back to my hometown and attended a function where I sat around the table with some old friends I’d grown up with and had not seen since. After reconnecting, someone said to me, "You haven't changed a bit. You are still the same person after all of these years." I know they meant well. I know it was intended to be a compliment. But something inside of me said, "NOOOOOOOOOO! That is not who I am and neither is it who I want you to think that I am. I have been through the growth pains of living life and have gained a little insight and wisdom. My perspective of life, God, and others is totally different than that person I used to be. My values have gotten better. My understanding of grace and love have hopefully improved.”
There is a scripture we often quote that we like to apply to ourselves but was actually intended for us to apply to others. It is in 2 Corinthians 5:17. "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come." But you need to read the verse before it to understand why this statement was written. Verse 16 says, "Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer." Then comes the exhortation to understand that you should see "anyone" in your life who "is in Christ" as "a new creature;” the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
The issue here is not just how you perceive yourself, but specifically how you look at others.
One letter written by the apostle Paul, contained as a book in the New Testament, is shorter than this blog post. The intent of the letter is to convince Philemon that his former slave, Onesimus, whom Paul led to Christ and has discipled, should no longer be viewed as his slave, but his brother in Christ. Onesimus, who only a brief time ago was a heathen slave, is now a new creature in Christ, and should be received and treated that way.
I know we think Philemon should be able to do this easily since he is a mature believer. …Why does he own slaves anyway? "Pull it together man!" But we have to take into account the culture and what was accepted and allowed. I'm not saying that we should allow him to treat his former slave like a slave. But I am being realistic in that, for Philemon, this was not going to be easy. He had some changes to go through in his mind and heart.
I find it difficult to see my own children as more than children sometimes. And they are all adults and living on their own. My job as a father is to give them the rite of passage to become the best adult version of themselves. But I'm not finding it easy. I find myself repeatedly apologizing to my son-in-law for calling my daughter whom he married last year by her maiden name (that's mine, not his). The other daughter who just graduated from college is moving to India for a year. It's difficult not seeing her as that little girl with freckles and thick glasses getting on an airplane to go to the other side of the world all alone.
It is our job as believers in Christ to see one another differently than who we used to be. Not just the difference from non-believer to believer, but from who we were yesterday to who we are becoming today and tomorrow. If you knew me a year ago, I am no longer that person. In fact, even since yesterday, I have changed my thinking on some things and am approaching life a little differently. All I am asking is that you give me a chance to become the new me I know God is making me to be.
In a few weeks, Peter Jankowski, one of the founding members of Life Church is coming home after serving four years as a staff pastor in a great church in Columbus, Ohio. The question is, will we allow Peter to be who he has become and is becoming? Or will we see him as we used to know him? He was our friend, our "buddy." He was known as the "son of the house." But I have been getting to know the new Pete over the last few months. And I am thrilled with the new man who will eventually become the leader of the house. But will we (beginning with me) allow him be that new man? Or will we hold him back from walking in his newness with our lack of expectation and grace? Will we demand that he stay in our comfort zone of relating to the old Pete? Or will we respect and follow the leader that he has become?
I will leave you with these two lists to make this a little more practical.
First, how do I adjust my treatment of the people around me to encourage their growth of becoming who God has called them to be?
1). You must stop what you have been seeing and allow new thoughts of who they are to form.
2). You must overlook the remnants of who they were in the past.
3). You must change how you look at them.
4). You must change what you say to them.
5). You must give them the opportunity to build trust in others in who they are becoming.
6). You must believe that they will continue to grow and become all that God has for them.
What will happen if you make the adjustment?
1). They will respect you for respecting them.
2). They will want to spend more time with you because you believe in them.
3). They will ask your advice on how to further develop into the new them.
Open your eyes to expand your vision of the people around you.
You will be glad you did... and so will they!