Reciprocity in Relationships and Lopsided Ministry

The best relationships are a bit like a see-saw on a playground. They are reciprocal; returning love for kindness shown, empathizing in times of trouble, and carrying each other’s burdens. At times, one friend might be stronger than the other and that strength will be shared in order to help their friend. But this will often flip-flop and the weaker friend will become the stronger in a different situation or under other circumstances. This beautiful give and take in friendship is dependable, steady and true. It is the result of loyalty and a mutual appreciation for one another. It is consistent and back and forth, a you give-I give relationship that benefits both friends.

Reciprocity in relationships develops trust, strengthening a friendship over time and allowing the relationship to go deep.

Ministry is more of a lopsided relationship. It is giving with no expectation of return. It is a pouring out and a laying down of “rights”. It is holding others up and caring for their needs, often without receiving anything in return.

The longer my husband and I serve in ministry, the more I realize how important this lopsided nature of ministry is in God’s upside-down kingdom. Jesus said, “The last will be first” (Matthew 20:16, ESV) and “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35, NIV). When we pour out our lives for others in this upside-down kingdom living, God pours into us.

Have you ever noticed that God is not reciprocal in His love for us? He lavishes His love on us! He doesn’t wait for us to love him perfectly before He pours His love into our lives. There is no stinginess in His love, no holding back. And when we experience that kind of love, we want to share it with others.

I don’t always minister well to others. I want relationships to be reciprocal and sometimes I insist upon it, withholding my love like a stubborn child, because I am not feeling loved in return. It’s in those times that Jesus reminds me of his lopsided love for me, of his faithfulness that is not dependent on my response and of His grace that he keeps pouring out on me and over me and in me and through me. All undeserved and all so freely given!

There is a beautiful sweetness in friendship when it is reciprocal and I believe that scripture admonishes us to be this kind of friend (1 Thessalonians 5:11, Ephesians 4:32, and James 5:16). But there is a suffering in lopsided ministry that causes us to rely fully on Christ to be our strength.

“We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,  and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,  and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5, ESV

I cherish my relationships that are reciprocal. I see them as a gift from God, as one of the ways He lavishes His love on me. But I am also grateful for the lopsided nature of ministry, because it causes me to fall before the throne of grace where I along with many others “receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16, NIV).

I believe that God is honored when there is reciprocity in relationships AND when there is faithfulness in lopsided ministry!

Celebrating twenty years in ministry!

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