“When he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. And they began to weep aloud and embraced Paul and repeatedly kissed him.” Acts 20:36-37 NASB
THE writer of the book of Acts, Luke, the Physician, excellently pictured in words the deep relationships Paul developed among the Elders of the churches in Ephesus.
The reason why tears were shed and tight embraces shared among each other was because Paul announced his departure for Jerusalem. When people you work with shed tears and express deep sorrow because of your resignation or retirement, it shows, without any doubt, that a deep bond with strong emotional and spiritual impact was made.
This is not only an artificial relationship but an authentic one! Paul stayed with them only three years and yet such deep bonds were forged. Does longevity have anything to do with building authentic relationships?
This is not necessarily true — some people have stayed together for 30 years and yet have not talked, or each one maintains a safe distance— too afraid to be hurt and too cautious to relate. Co-existing for a long time and not building authentic relationships at all is tolerated disconnection in our society today.
Today, results have become more important than building relationships thus making friendships artificial, not authentic. It is hard to have coffee with someone today without an agenda. Rather than genuinely spending time with another human being, almost everyone is in the mode of extreme self-preservation.
When self-preservation is top priority, no authentic relationship happens. Paul, the Apostle, reminded them of the tears he shed and the credible life he lived. Now, called by God to go to Jerusalem without any details of what awaits him there, the Holy Spirit assured him that in every city, bonds and prison awaits him.
Added to this, he was aware that upon his departure, wolves will come in and destroy the flocks. These wolves were from among themselves. Why would Paul insist on leaving despite his knowledge of the imminent danger of the flock from wolves?
Here, we learn that building authentic relationships prohibit you from over-protecting others. Over-protecting the people we love is actually self-love and self-preservation…authentic relationships make you releasers rather than hoarders.
Acts chapter 20 is not only a text of scripture which seeks to report an event, it was also written to be an influence that equips God’s people to be builders of authentic relationships.
Within these report of Luke regarding the resignation of Paul and the releasing of the Elders, are actually timeless insights on what it takes to build authentic relationships.
Please do not treat this as a formula that assures results, rather, these are guideposts along our journey. Remember, regardless of personality, human beings were created in the image of God and are not wired to be alone but to go along.
We all maintain several webs of relationships…marriage, friendships, community, fraternities and high school batch mates and many others are unmistakable evidences that we cannot live solo!
Quietly consider these timely and timeless insights regarding authentic relationships. They all start with a “don’t”… believe me, these don’ts are not negatives… they are hidden positives.
1. Don’t hide your tears (vulnerability)
2. Don’t hoard your blessings (generosity)
3. Don’t neglect your task (responsibility)
4. Don’t have an agenda that promotes self (transparency)
5. Don’t over protect the people you love (powerlessness)
6. Don’t take advantage of others (integrity)
7. Don’t forget that authentic relationships are bonded in prayer (spirituality)
Let these timeless insights lead you to pray, and reflect and maybe, it is time to ask the hard question to check on our existing relationships whether they are artificial or authentic?
Take advantage of a God-given chance to change, and before this short life comes to an end, savor the relationships you have made more than the results you are pressured to make.
In every assignment, travel, and transfer, prayerfully leave footprints of friendship. Believe me, Paul can preach the gospel because he related with others. Check your contacts in your cellphone… are any new names added? Do you have friends from other companies? Other religions aside from yours? Other nationalities? If you want to make a lasting spiritual impact on others, then learn to be a builder of authentic relationships.
I write straight from a heart that is starting to dare come out from my safe and secure Zone.