“And He took bread, gave thanks, broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘This is My Body, which is given for you.’” Luke 22:19a Christian Standard Bible
“For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be upon his shoulders.” Isaiah 6:9a Christian Standard Bible
“For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son so that everyone that believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 Christian Standard Bible
“We are chosen, blessed, and broken so as to be given. The fourth aspect of the life of the Beloved is to be given. For me, personally, this means that it is only as people who are given that we fully understand our being chosen, blessed, and broken. In the giving it becomes clear that we are chosen, blessed, and broken not simply for our own sakes, but so that all we are about, all that we live, finds its final significance in its being lived for others.” (The Life of the Beloved pg. 105, Henri Nouwen)
This is a concept that hasn’t been very popular in any age since Jesus introduced the idea that we are responsible for those around us. Most people have no problem accepting their responsibility for their family. They may not always be happy about that responsibility, but mostly they recognize they do have a responsibility to their relatives! Of course, Cain wasn’t very thrilled when God confronted him with his responsibility for his brother; his response was, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” These infamous words have echoed down through the millennia, offering an out to those seeking to abandon the unpleasantness of difficult relations.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are times when family, friends, colleagues must create boundaries to protect themselves from those who could be termed the professional weaker brother. However, there is a definite need to be aware of the trend that has plagued the organized church for centuries, the need to determine who deserves our givenness. This is one of the areas Jesus addressed when He warned against judging for the very simple reason we do not ever have all the facts regarding anyone’s story. Therefore, we are called to be the Given just as strongly as we are called to be the Beloved, the Blessed, and the Broken.
“It is sad to see that, in our highly competitive and greedy world, we have lost touch with the joy of giving. We often live as if our happiness depended on having. But I don’t know anyone who is truly happy because of what he or she truly has. True joy, happiness, and inner peace come from giving ourselves to others. A life is a life for others. The truth, however, is usually discovered when we are confronted by our brokenness.” (ibid pg.109)
Nearly 20 years ago, I was taught an extremely valuable lesson about the ministry of giving and being the Given, and the opposite, receiving that which was given. I was taught a lesson about the precious blessing that accompanies both giving and receiving.
Recently I was reminded of those years when our combined income was less than $10,000 a year, and for two years it was under $5,000! Joni and I were transitioning into new opportunities of ministry. In prior years, we had been able to quietly help others. Now the shoe was on the other foot, and it was incredibly embarrassing to find ourselves in need of financial aid. And here is the very height of my arrogance! I don’t mind the idea of others being in need and helping them without criticism or judgement, but let need come to roost in my chicken coop and I discover just how quickly I choose to reject that reality.
I have come to believe that in order to truly understand the power of being the Given, one must learn the humility of receiving. Our natural brokenness lends itself to arrogance and pride, and egocentricity leads us to the self-rejection which interferes with our process of being the Beloved and becoming the Beloved.
The answer is to become the Given through the discipline of learning to receive, realizing everyone needs help from someone at some time in some way! It is this other side of brokenness, the contrite heart, the humble spirit that comes from surrendering to God’s Grace. When I accept that God provides the ministry for others to be blessed through being the Given by giving to meet our needs, our Beloved-ness becomes joined. We are united in the mutual ministry of being the Beloved and becoming the Beloved!
“Isn’t a meal together the most beautiful expression of our desire to be given to each other in our brokenness? Don’t you think that our desire to eat together is an expression of our even deeper desire to be food for one another? Don’t we sometimes say: ‘That was a very nurturing conversation, That was a refreshing time’?” (ibid pp. 110, 111)
This intentional giving brings a much deeper understanding to the gift of Communion. What Jesus offers through the Broken Bread is the reality of what He was willing to give for us. As is almost always the case, God offers us so much more than we are able to see when we are first exposed to Him. Therefore, we are given the invitation to “taste and see that He is good”! Not only is He good, there is so much more He has for us in our being the Beloved and our continuous journey of becoming the Beloved.
I have been quite intrigued by the parable of the Sheep and the Goats found in Matthew 25, and how it applies to the life of the Beloved. I believe there is a deep significance missed if we don’t consider that this story was told only days before Jesus faced the cross. Jesus told the story to encourage His followers in the understanding of what it meant to be the Given. It carried special significance for Him and He desired His disciples then and now to plunge into the depths His words offered. Consider this parable in light of the Given ministry that is essential to being the Beloved.
The sheep are commended by the King for the way they gave of themselves to those who were in need because they were doing it for Him: 1) feeding the hungry; 2) providing drink for the thirsty; 3) inviting strangers into their homes; 4) clothing the naked; 5) caring for the sick; 6) visiting those in prison. The response of those identified as the sheep, the righteous, is even more intriguing! They respond with, “When did we ever do these things for you?” And Jesus’ reply is classic, “I assure you, when you did it for one of the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!” (Matthew 25:39b New Living Translation)
“It is worthwhile making the distinction between talents and gifts. More important than our talents are our gifts. We have only a few talents, but we have many gifts. Our gifts are the many ways in which we express our humanity. They are part of who we are: friendship, kindness, patience, joy, peace, forgiveness, gentleness, love, hope, trust, and many others. These are the true gifts we have to offer each other.” (ibid pp. 113,114)
I find it remarkable to note that Nouwen’s list of gifts includes the gifts the Holy Spirit brings into our lives. And yet aren’t the gifts of the Holy Spirit about us being the Given? It is through these gifts the Holy Spirit creates in our lives that which allows us to give as the Beloved of God. This giving is done without seeking anything other than that which is best for our brother and sister.
Our actions and attitudes bring us to the beginning of being the Beloved even as we are experiencing becoming the Beloved! Through the process of God’s Grace we move into being blessed, knowing we are broken and that our brokenness leads into the ministry of being the Given that becomes living the life of the Beloved. And it’s God’s passion and intimacy for us, His desire for us to be known and to know, leading us daily into a deeper knowledge of His grace and love, because we are the Beloved!