The days are getting longer and warming up a bit here in Michigan. This is a celebration for those who like to be outside in a flower or vegetable garden. You know who you are. You enjoy being on your knees with your hands in the dirt. It can be relaxing for you but for others it’s a chore. I would venture to say that even if you enjoy gardening, it is still hard work. My Dad loved to garden. He had a vegetable garden every year until he was 93. His pride and joy were his roses and his tomato plants. Even in his old age, he would scoot around on his bottom to weed. He knew the value of cultivating in his gardens. The time spent preparing them for planting and then pulling weeds was so valuable to the outcome of the plant. I think that as members of the body of Christ, we have a garden of people. We need to take the time to cultivate our relationships. What does that look like?
- Giving of our time for other’s best interests.
When you have a garden, you have to put aside time to cultivate the soil, plant the seeds, pull the weeds, and water them regularly. Without this time the plants will not grow to their potential. I think of how Jesus gave of his time with the Samaritan Woman at the well. Although the Jewish people didn’t go through Samaria, Jesus did on purpose. I love how the KJV says in John 4:4, “And he must NEEDS go through Samaria.” To give of his time for this woman was a need. He needed to do it for her and for so many others who believed on him that day. Do you see time spent with others as a need for their best interest?
- Giving of our ears for the other’s best interests.
What does listening have to do with a garden? You can’t hear the plants as they stretch and grow. You can listen and learn about gardening and how to do it better. My dad never missed listening to Jerry Baker on the radio to get gardening tips. We will do better in our relationships if we listen. If we listen to others well, we will learn more about them and how to love them well. Conversations can only go forward if we listen. Take Jesus’ example again with the Samaritan Woman. He spoke to her and then he listened to everything she had to say. He never talked over her and dismissed her words. Jesus was after her heart. “…If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” John 4:10 Do you take the time to listen to others in order to understand their needs?
- Giving truth for the other’s best interests.
In a garden, you need to fertilize, water, and weed in order for good growth to take place. There was a time when my Dad gave me three of his tomato plants for my yard. I wanted to make him proud so I was determined to care for them well. The holes were dug, but before I put the plants in the holes, I poured in a generous amount of manure. I was sure they would thrive on all that nourishment. Two days later, the plants were shriveled up and brown. I over fertilized them. Those were the last tomato plants my Dad gave to me. Can this happen in relationships? Absolutely. We can say truths that are hurtful because they are said at the wrong time. In Romans 8:28, it tells us all things work out for good to them who love the Lord. This is truth but is not the best truth to tell someone whose husband just died. We must learn from Jesus on how to speak the truth at the right time and in the right way. It needs to be helpful. The Samaritan Woman told Jesus that the Messiah was coming. It was at this point when Jesus gave her truth, “…I who speak to you am he.” John 4:26 This was the perfect time and she believed him and then went to call others to see the Messiah. Do you use the truth to harm or to help others? Do you use the truth to smother someone who is hurting? Will you use the truth for other’s best interests?
These are only three ways we can cultivate our relationships within the body of Christ. We can learn from Jesus and his encounter with the Samaritan Woman. Take some time and read the account from John 4:1-45. You will see how Jesus works at cultivating a relationship with this woman. Remember this…we don’t have to wait for warm weather to cultivate relationships. Every moment of every day is a great time to cultivate within the body of Christ. What is holding you back? Move toward someone today for their good and God’s glory.