A Real Relationship of Confidence – When Man Listens

 

A Real Relationship of Confidence – When Man Listens by Cecil Rose for The Oxford Group

It must be like Christ’s; substitutes do not work. Many of us give to other people, but we give “things” and not “ourselves”. There are plenty of employers who give their work people good wages and a bright welfare-centre, but no personal interest and concern such as would establish a real relationship of confidence. There are parents who give their children a comfortable home and good education, but keep themselves spiritually remote. There are lots of us who give the money to meet all kinds of needs in other people, but fail to meet their deepest need of friendship. And when we do try to help others in their personal problems we give them good advice from a slightly elevated pedestal, instead of laying beside them our own deepest experiences of God and sin, of victory and defeat, so that first they lose their loneliness and then they begin to see, through our confidences, how God deals with a need like theirs.

Self-giving will certainly mean that our time and money, and our strength, are entirely at the disposal of other people as God directs, so that those others begin to realize that we shall withhold nothing from them for selfish reasons, or because we shirk the cost. One of the characteristics of Jesus was this complete availability. But real self-giving will mean that we make available to men more than our time and strength and possessions. It will mean that we are prepared to share with them the innermost core of our life–our temptations, our difficulties, our sins, and discoveries of God–‘if these can be used to help them and bring them to God. Our self-giving is not complete until no pride or fear, no pain or shame, will prevent us giving all of ourselves to another in his need.

People sometimes say, ‘Oh, but these things are too sacred to talk about!’ In all too many cases that is the defense of people who have precious little to tell, and whose experience of God is not vivid and joyful enough to make them want to pass it on. In other cases it is a form of spiritual selfishness. How should we have had the story of the Temptation in the Wilderness, the glimpse into the disquieted soul of Jesus as He saw the approaching end, or the most intimate words of Gethsemane, unless Jesus had told His secrets to the disciples? How could we have learned what God could do with a man like Paul unless Paul himself had been willing to tell, humbly and honestly, what he was like before God changed him? We are under an unpayable debt to men like St. Augustine, Brother Lawrence, John Wesley, and a great unnamed company of men and women who have been willing to let us see, in the inner history of their own souls, how God deals with sin.

It is self-giving at this level which establishes the deepest and strongest personal relationships between men and women, and it was on the basis of such relationships that Christ proposed to build the new world. The fellowship thus created was to be in the world what Paul described as `a colony of heaven,’ a centre of civilizing power. This is the function of the real Church. We are rather apt to confuse the Church with the loose associations of men and women who happen to worship in the same building, or meet each other in the running of various organizations, but many of whom hardly know each other’s names and have little interchange beyond remarks about the weather. These associations are not ‘Churches.’ They are ‘potential Churches,’ and often have a nucleus of men and women in real fellowship with each other. But the living, functioning Church of Christ exists only where men and women are really giving themselves to each other in unreserved personal relationships.

It is this kind of fellowship that the Christian is called to create around him. Nothing less will save the world from chaos.

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