Who is my neighbor? Am I my brother’s keeper? What does Facebook mean when it says that I am in a relationship?
I once had a friend that did not consider me to be her friend. She was certainly friendly enough with me, but she considered me a mere acquaintance. We are still “friends” on Facebook, but we rarely comment on each other’s posts and she is not in my regular feed. To be clear, she didn’t even consider Terasue to be “her friend” because they had not known each other long enough. In her mind, there were only 3-5 people that she considered friends – the rest of us were relegated to acquaintances. I am not entirely certain why she had such a high standard for her friends.
Do we know who our friends are? Are you a friend to your neighbors? Your brothers? How would you categorize your relationships?
Jesus Himself had various circles of influence that were determined by various levels of relationship. For instance, we know that at the end of His ministry that Jesus these circles determined the level of discipleship that He was able to provide. Early on in His ministry, Jesus turned away His own mother, brothers, and sisters and focused on the relationships of those who were following Him. Later, we see Jesus leaving some of the disciples behind as He focused on the three or four that had demonstrated a higher commitment to who He was.
I believe that we all have many relationships and each relationship has the potential for discipleship and deep friendship. Any friendship is a relationship of influence and the influence is directly proportionated to the intimacy of the relationship. We can choose to leverage the influence or we can choose to store up the relationship equity for later use. Either way, all relationships are truly transactional.
Before you start spitting at the screen, let me remind you that all of scripture refers to God’s relationship with mankind with transactional terms like redemption, propitiation, purchase, slavery, and contractual statements. We see covenant, grace, forgiveness, and mercy described in the context of transaction; at the very least, these are described in contrast to transactional terms. Jesus paid the price for relationship with us, and if we love Him, then we will demonstrate our love for Him by our obedience to love one another.
I would like to suggest that though we all have multiple layers or circles of relationship, we each have three to four relationships that are potentially deeper mentoring relationships. Mentoring requires intentionality and purpose. Mentoring requires that we cash in our relational equity and speak truth. Mentoring requires time, energy, and effort. Mentoring is a Biblical mandate for every believer. Finally, every relationship can have undertones of mentorship even if it is not defined formally.
Jesus invited at least twelve men into a formal, mentoring relationship. We know that he had at least 120 friends with whom He had a great deal of influence. And, we know that Jesus had an even more intentional relationship with three of the twelve with whom He spent most of His time. Jesus also embraced and demonstrated a value for mentorship by His pursuit of the Father as His Mentor. I believe that if a suitable mentor had been found of earth for Him, He would have pursued that relationship as well.
I am not asking you to go out make new friends. I am asking you to spend some of your relational equity and speak truth to those who are already looking to you for mentorship. Here are some mentoring questions you can use to launch your relationships forward:
· What is your greatest struggle right now?
· Where are you experiencing success?
· How are you measuring success?
· What are you hearing from God?
Take, leave, or add to these questions, but a follower of Jesus is one who makes disciples. And yes, I am using discipleship, mentorship, and relational influence interchangeably. I am sure that there are distinctives between these, but for this article I am intentionally using them synonymously.