Winnie the Pooh once said, “You can’t stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.” As I prepare to leave the United States for four years of missionary service in South America, I am reminded of how important intentionality in my relationships is to their effectiveness and longevity. When I will no longer be “bumping into” friends at church or able to “pop over” for coffee, how much effort I put into my relationships will determine what relationships will survive my first term.
I think Jesus understood this when He said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13, ESV). We often equate that with Christ’s ultimate sacrifice of His life for us, but it generally means putting others before ourselves, which has to be done intentionally, as it is not the first inclination of our prideful selves.
Paul understood this, too. This first generation missionary certainly knew what it meant to leave his friends behind, time and time again. There was no Facetime or WhatsApp for video chatting, either! Yet, we see in Paul’s epistles how effective he was at maintaining meaningful relationships, wherever he went. Could the key to this be found in 1 Thessalonians 2:8? Paul says, “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us” (ESV).
Building relationships that are based on trust and love requires time and effort. It requires that we unselfishly give of ourselves for another. It is exactly what God has done for us, and who God is, for God is love. Friendship is the most meaningful when it is lived intentionally, not haphazardly. Each of us must determine what that means for ourselves, seeking God’s direction in our relationships, prioritizing our relationship with Him, most of all.“A little Consideration, a little Thought for Others, makes all the difference.” (Winnie the Pooh was a wise bear, don’t you think?) In this new year, may we ask God to show us how to live intentionally with others, developing those relationships that are mutually encouraging and edifying, while prioritizing our relationship with Jesus, most of all.