The most frustrating part of every local ministry I’ve ever been a part of is watching Christians destroy their relationship with other Christians because of selfishness, pride, and jealousy. It breaks my heart when I see someone who says they love God and the Church hate their brothers or sisters in Christ. It hurts me when I see something so beneficial thrown away over something so petty. It makes sad, knowing the devil is celebrating the wedge that’s been driven between them.
I believe those moments of madness come from a lack of appreciation. Unfortunately, we don’t always value our fellow Christians in and of themselves, instead, we love them because of what they provide us in return for our loyalty.
Thanks to my friend Brad Montague (follow this link and enjoy) and his genuine love for all things Fred Rogers, I’ve been researching the life of the television star quite a bit lately. One statement he made at a college graduation in 2001 deeply resonated with me:
I believe that appreciation is a holy thing, that when we look for what’s best in the person we happen to be with at the moment, we’re doing what God does; so in appreciating our neighbor, we’re participating in something truly sacred.
If we appreciated the people God put into our lives as we should, what might we finally be done with? Would we end war, hunger, loneliness, neglect, and bigotry? Would we see the end of broken homes, broken relationships, and a broken world? Would we finally be to one another what we need most in return – a soul fueled by grace willing to bestow grace in return? I often wonder what the world would be like if we just appreciated one another as we should.
John 3:16 says, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” In that beloved verse, we see how much God appreciates humanity. He loves us, values us, and gave us the very best of Himself. Every time I read that verse I take out “the world” and insert my name so I don’t forget that “God so loved Neal Mathis that He gave His only begotten Son.” In some way that makes my connection to God feel more personal and more impactful. It reminds me I’m valuable and that He appreciates me.
As a minister, appreciation is sometimes hard to find. Days can pass, even weeks, when it feels like no one notices your work, cares about your sacrifices, or even acknowledges your struggles. It can be a lonely place, even with a loving, supportive wife and a great congregation full of wonderful people. It’s in those moments that John 3:16 pushes me through the doubt and dreariness.
I am grateful that God loves me, but even more than that, I’m relieved that God appreciates me. He doesn’t take my relationship with Him for granted. He doesn’t long to throw it away over something petty. He isn’t keeping score or even looking for an opportunity to “put me in my place.” He appreciates me for who I am, warts and all. You see, those warts (i.e. my sin) brought His Son to this world in the first place. They’re the reason His love was necessary at Calvary and they’re what I try every day to overcome. He doesn’t love them, but He continues to love me even though they tempt me constantly. Today, appreciate those around you because Mr. Rogers was right when he said, “appreciation is a holy thing.”
We’ve seen from God that He appreciates you, now go out and appreciate the world He made, sustains, and sent His Son to die for. He does.
All Scripture is taken from the New King James Version. Copyright (c) 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.