Henri Nouwen was a dutch catholic priest who lived, ministered, wrote, and taught in the mid 20th century. He was interested in variety of topics like psychology, theology, community, and spiritual formation. He taught at both Notre Dame and at Yale. There is much to say about Nouwen’s commitment to a life of faith, and we will definitely touch more on Nouwen in the future. For today’s purposes, I want to focus in on this particular quote from him:
Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone’s face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentment? Did I forgive? Did I love? These are the real questions. I must trust that the little bit of love I sow now will bear many fruits, here in this world now and the life to come.
How we relate to other’s is a significant part of our faith. We see this in the Bible time and time again. The last six commandments in the ten commandments demonstrates God’s desire for us to relate well to others. We are reminded to love others, to forgive, to bear burdens, to grieve with others, to pray for others, and on and on it goes throughout the Bible. A large part of following after Jesus is learning how to engage well with others. Unfortunately, we aren’t always successful at managing our relationships with people.
If we find that we are struggling in our relationships, the begin by looking at ourselves. We can’t change the behavior and attitudes of others, but we can change our behaviors and attitudes. We can decide how to react to others in whatever circumstances we face. It may be challenging sometimes, but this is an area that is important for each of us to mature in. The good news is that we aren’t left to our own devices to manage our behaviors and attitudes. In fact, the Bible tells us that part of the work of the Holy Spirit is to change us so that we are more loving, kind, gentle, and patient with others.
Galatians 5: 22-23 reminds each of us of the Holy Spirit’s work in these areas of our lives.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
How we interact with others matters. God wants us to deal well with others. What area might the Holy Spirit be working on in your life? How will the Spirit’s work affect your relationships with others?
Questions for reflection?
- Is there a strained relationship with someone in which you are struggling to respond in a loving manner? If so, is it a matter of prayer for you?
- Are you asking the Holy Spirit to build the fruits of the Spirit up in you?
- Did you offer peace today?