When confronted with a predator, animals respond instinctively with a fight or flight response. This instinct is a gift from God to keep his creatures safe. When we humans find ourselves outside our comfort zone in a relationship, the same instinct leads us to either go on the offensive, or to withdraw. Both are responses of fear, rather than love.
This can happen easily in conversations with people when they express beliefs, worldviews or opinions that are different from ours. Instead of responding in love, we let our fears take over, and we become argumentative, or we simply pull away. Yet God has designed us with the capacity not just to react, but to reason. This allows us to take action in a deliberately loving way.
Other times, however, we neither fight nor flee. Instead, we just freeze—unable to say or do anything, like a deer in the headlights. But this response isn’t helpful either. After a few uncomfortable encounters, we find ourselves avoiding people who believe differently about God than we do, or at least we avoid having conversations about God with them. They may avoid us for the same reason!
Fight, flight, or freeze—they all make it difficult for us to make a connection. They inhibit our ability to develop a relationship. But here’s the thing: God calls us to love others, and not just those who are like us. In order to do that, we have to find a way to love in spite of our instinctive reactions.
The alternative is to face—to move toward another person in loving engagement. This will require us to take an honest look at some barriers we erect that keep us from moving toward others in love. There is enormous value in making this assessment. It will allow us to move ahead into more open and meaningful relationships, and we will become a more loving people in the process. In time, we will be able to introduce people to the God who loves them.
In this Thursday’s devotion, we’ll look at some barriers we hide behind that prevent us from truly welcoming others.
Prayer: Lord, none of us desires to be unwelcoming or unfriendly, yet we don’t always understand how to let others in, either. We often let our fears dictate our responses to people. Lord, help us overcome those fears so that we can respond intentionally and deliberately in loving ways that break down barriers. Help us to do the work that’s needed in our hearts so that we can be a more welcoming people. Amen.