A friend of mine recently grieved over the falling away of several prime leaders who had chosen – in his words – to walk “too close to the edge”. Therefore, he lamented, we must walk safely and not get “too close to the edge.”
He knows that when we fall we take a lot of people with us.
True. So true. So how do we walk on the edge safely? But first, should we actually “walk on the edge?”
Jesus walked on the edge. We are called to follow Jesus. So if we’re following Jesus – at least in theory – we should be on the edge.
And Jesus was out among sinners. And sinners sin and often congregate to sin with other sinners. So if we follow Jesus, we will find ourselves among sinners sinning. And of course unless we are very strong and intentional, we will find that we are tempted to sin as well.
Since we all have a heritage of sinning, it’s hard to break the habits, mind-set and frustrations that sin has produced. And for most of us we have specific areas where sin is easiest and most prevalent. Some things are tempting for some and other things are tempting for others. But we’re all tempted. And we are weak and vulnerable.
Actually, we need edge-walkers. A lot of edge-walkers! We in the church need some people to take a new perspective and get on the edge. But so often we require edge-walkers to be loners and self-supported. They lack relational safety nets and consequently fall over the edge.
So how do we walk on the edge safely? Here are some ideas:
- Maintain a core of quality relationships.
- We all know that it’s all about relationships, but maintaining them requires intentionality. Real relationships of quality and trust don’t just happen. Even those relationships we consider “born in heaven” require care and feeding. (Someone should write a book – “The Care and feeding of Relationships”)
- Many people feel that they have quality relationships, but really they have relationships of convenience.
- A relationship of convenience is one that requires little and cost nothing.
- A relationship of convenience is about fun and not about growth. (Quality relationships can have an element of fun, but they at their core are about growth.)
- A quality relationship is one of mutual respect that requires escalating transparency and honesty.
- A quality relationship says, "Show me and I will follow. Ask me and I will tell you. Confide in me and I will listen. Expect of me and I will deliver."
- The core of quality relationships most often contain some the strategic outsiders who can speak into our lives for correction and adjustment.
- Make yourself accountable.
- Accountability relationships are ones you make yourself. No one can actually make you accountable to them. By saying “I’d like you to question my motives and actions” you open yourself up for true change.
- Accountability is a nasty word for some. They see it as “jot and tittle” bean-counting of actions. They have a bad history of “accountability” and accountability groups. But accountability means allowing others accessibility to our actions and our hearts. And in our hearts are our motives and attitudes. To be accountable is to be vulnerable on a level that is often uncomfortable.
- Know your limitations.
- Few people are willing to acknowledge that they even have limitations, much less have a genuine knowledge of what they are.
- If greed is a problem, then stay away from it. If drunkenness is a temptation, then avoid drinking. If glamour and “spotlight” are temptations, then don’t go there emotionally, physically or mentally. When one says, “I’m not strong enough to go into a strip club to evangelize” they’re not displaying weakness, they’re displaying wisdom. They’re displaying a self-knowledge that allows them to give of themselves without compromising themselves.
- Knowledge and acknowledgement of limitations helps set vision and give focus.
- Know your strengths and use them to manage your weaknesses.
- While weaknesses are often glaring, strengths are often subtle.
- Most people spend eons and tons of energy attempting to turn weakness into strengths. Mostly can’t be done. But when we recognize our strengths and our weaknesses, we are able to use the things we are strong in to manage the things we are weak in.
- Use your strengths to manage your weaknesses.
We as God’s church need to find ways to support those who walk on the edge so that they don’t fall over. And we need to acknowledge that their particular brand of edge-walking might be God’s best for them – even if it’s not for us.
And walking on the edge is not really an option. But a mandate.