At Gateway Church in Austin, we continued our series called “Refrigerator Rights.” This series is designed to develop healthy relationships in the context of a network of support.
John Burke shared some of the following thoughts:
“Who has refrigerator rights in your life? Refrigerator Rights can tell us a lot about our relational health. It’s not just about the food in your fridge, is it? It’s about more than that.
Sociologically, belonging is complex. We have different relational and sociological needs that a one-size-fits-all gathering can’t meet. Jesus operated in these four social spaces as well:
- Public Space (large gatherings where we learn together and agree on a new set of
shared values like the Sermon on the Mount)
- Social Space (20-70 people where we make a difference together and enjoy life together – the 70 – a network)
- Personal Space (Family space where we extend Refrigerator Rights in family-like friendships – life group – the 12 disciples)
- Intimate Space (1-3 people who know everything about you and vice versa – Running Partners – Peter, James, and John).
God’s been trying to tell us all along: we were created for community with God and others.
Everybody longs for two things: to belong and to have purpose. Ironically we strive to succeed, I think in order to feel a sense of belonging and purpose, and yet our striving to succeed sometimes works against getting what we want. We move, we trade jobs, we value more money and more titles and mores stuff at the cost of our relational and social capital.
What if you have all the success you dream financially, but no close friendships with true refrigerator rights? Wouldn’t it be more meaningful if we had relationships where we’re really known and loved and cared for and we really know and care about for a few others as well. This sense of belonging and purpose that God put in us is something God has designed His church to help meet. It takes all these social spaces to truly feel a sense of belonging and to live our your purpose that truly makes a difference in our lives and in the lives of others.
The challenge is that it costs to get those kind of deep friendships. We’ve all been wounded and let down by each other. We all have struggles, challenges, trials, unmet hopes, dreams and expectations. You sit there wishing the people around you were more friendly and really cared about you, but guess what: they are thinking the same thing about you! It’s a problem we all create together, but it’s also a challenge God wants to lead us to all solve together!
What’s the solution? You are the solution when you allow God to lead and guide you to create the environments where others find belonging and purpose. Counterintuitively, that’s what will provide you with the same thing, but if we all hold back, blindfolded to the hurts and needs of others, waiting for others to do for us what we won’t do for them, we will all walk away feeling disappointed.
Look at some of these “one another” commands given to every Christ-Follower to create a sense of belonging for others. If we will commit to building networks to help others belong, we will find a few close spiritual friendships along the way, and find belonging and purpose.
The Scriptures don’t command us to find the perfect people to meet our needs, instead we are commanded to do the following:
- Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13:34
- Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 12:10
- Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not think you are superior. Romans 12:16
- Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you. Romans 15:7
- Live in harmony with one another. Let there be no divisions in the church. 1 Corinthians 1:10
- Encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. 2 Corinthians 13:11
- Be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:2
When I hear of people hopping from church to church for convenience, or because the music or message was better at one church than another. I always think, ‘Didn’t you love any people there? How could you leave so easily?’
If you didn’t love any people there, or have a network of friends that you served with, then you weren’t fully following Christ to be His church! So let that be your goal here: that it’s not easy to leave because you loved a network of people well. Let’s quit this consumeristic church-hopping to ‘get something’ if we aren’t first working to ‘give something to build up God’s church’ and to give to others what we didn’t get. You are the church! We either work together to create belonging and purpose as we build each other up, or we all just keep disappointing each other and running, weakening each church along the way.
Now, I’m not saying God will never lead you away from this church to another or lead you from another church to this church. There are reasons and seasons that are good, but he will never lead you to leave hurt or running from hard conversations. If we are called to leave ,then we need to leave well and give that church the opportunity to grow stronger.
When Christ Followers focus on getting others to give to us, we all end up disappointed. When those of us who know the love of God ask His Spirit to help us give this to others, we receive more than we give. In the process, God does something amazing that changes the world for us, and for others. Jesus said, ‘It’s more blessed to give than receive.’ The upside down nature of God’s kingdom is that you get back more than you give away. Let’s be honest though, it may be more blessed to give, but it’s also more draining. It takes effort and commitment and working through challenges. It’s much easier to criticize the church, or label people hypocrites, and run away when they disappoint you than it is to commit to building His church into something worth dying for (which by the way, Jesus was willing to do). It is tough, but it is worth it!
The Scripture pictures the church as a human body:
4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. Romans 12:4-6
God has made you unique for a reason. God wants nothing less than to re-present himself through each of us together as we function together as His body, made up of our diverse gifts, abilities, passions and stories. God’s creating something new—a New Family, a Unified Community, a Body to work through to reverse the isolating, alienating affects of a world gone astray. A New Community that starts with grace. Through Jesus sacrifice, he sets us free from fears of judgment and condemnation so we can offer the same to others as we live in Grace. As a result, we are free to be an authentic community. We can grow into a responsive and connected community that He can live in and through to tangibly show the world what He is like.
However, here’s the deal, it costs us something.
1. It will cost you “me first thinking.” Our culture has ingrained into us a consumeristic, what have you done for me lately, me-first thinking. That absolutely won’t work. If you show up to a Singles Network or network near your neighborhood once or twice then bail because ‘It didn’t do it for me’ then it won’t do it for anyone. Those of us who follow Jesus must die to that self-centered, self-serving attitude, and embrace the paradox of Jesus. Dying to self is the path to life when God’s at the center.
2. It will cost you time. Relationships deepen at the speed of Ketchup. It’s slow, and it often requires a slap on the bottom to get it going. Our culture has ingrained impatience and instant-gratification in us. We must give that up. You’ve got to show up and participate and contribute to find belonging, purpose and make a difference for others. That takes prioritizing, being consistent, and making the time. This means you’ll have to say “no” to other things – even good and important things. Will you make the time and be consistent?
3. It will cost you commitment. We’ll talk more about this next week, but Refrigerator Rights friendships never form without a commitment to stick it out and work through difficulties, misunderstandings, hurt, and frustrations. Give it a committed run for at least a year.
If you’ll count the cost and do these things you’ll find a richness in your life that no amount of wealth or stuff can buy. One person taking off the blindfold can start a chain reaction toward relational richness for all.”
Watch or listen the entire message at www.gatewaychurch.com/podcast.