I have always enjoyed learning, and I am constantly amazed at how much I have to learn from people who work in fields unrelated to my own and in which I have absolutely no experience. I don’t mean learning the skills of what they do (although I could learn a lot there as well), but the method and purpose of why they do what they do and how they seek to think more carefully and deliberately not only about their own work, but the work of those around them. There is a richness in constantly asking yourself, what is God giving me through this person? What gift do they bring that might enrich who I am (not what I have) or what I do (not what I can get)?
We could, of course, approach these questions in a self-centered manner, seeing people merely for what we can gain from them; however, as Christians, our understanding of these questions needs to be grounded in humility. I don’t invite conversation with someone for what I can get out of it, but as I listen and watch another person I do so with a view to my own deficiencies and how this person might show me a way to change. Perhaps I learn a little more how to love the unlovely or why thinking carefully is important in every area of life or what it means to lead well through challenging situations. My deficiencies seem endless, but thankfully God’s grace is truly boundless.
We would, however, be remiss if we didn’t recognize that the opportunity and ability both to give and receive from each other is only a small taste of the greater work of Christ. Jesus is the source of divine grace that is without limit. The Holy Spirit is the one who helps me see my deficiencies in relation to the person and work of Christ. We esteem our relation to others according to how we esteem Christ in our daily lives.
As we move toward Holy Week, the week leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, I wonder what the expectations were of those who spread out their coats and palm branches before Jesus as he entered Jerusalem on a donkey? How did they understand what God might be giving them through this man? How did they esteem him? Our answer comes as Jesus hung on the cross…alone.
Receiving from others is hard to do unless and until we recognize what we have received from God in Christ. As the truth of that gift sinks deeper into our hearts and minds through faith and repentance, the nature of that gift will transform our relationships with others.