How to Be a Somebody to Somebody
by Chip Ingram
I’ve come across a revolutionary truth in my life: Everyone behaves in a way that makes sense to themselves.
Now that doesn’t mean that they behave in a way that makes sense to me. But if we understand that they behave in a way that makes sense to them, we’ll go a long way toward understanding a human being’s desperate search for love.
There are a lot of theories out there that try to explain why people behave the way they do. Freud said our behavior is determined by primal drives. Adler disagreed, saying our life really revolves around self-esteem. Goldberg said it’s all about stages of moral development. Maslow thought our behavior fit a certain hierarchy of needs on the road to self-actualization. Skinner argued that it has more to do with stimulus responses.
But there’s one thing everyone agrees on: We all want to be a “somebody” in the eyes of someone who loves us.
That’s true, isn’t it? We all want significance. It’s one of our most basic drives. We need to feel important and loved, at least by someone. And because deep down we feel unworthy—a result of the Fall and our lifelong sinfulness—we develop elaborate strategies to get people to love us.
We all have different strategies. That’s why when someone’s behavior doesn’t make sense to us, we can assume it makes sense to them. Some people are jokesters, some are loud and aggressive, some are perpetual victims, and some are people-pleasing performers. And along the way, nearly everyone has forsaken common sense and good judgment. Though our strategies differ, our purpose is universal: We long for acceptance.
The problem is that our love-seeking gymnastics often take us outside of God’s boundaries. The guilt, shame, denial, and lies that result always accomplish the opposite result from what we wanted. We feel even more unworthy than before.
The Big Question
Here’s the question I want us to consider: Knowing that we’ve violated God’s boundaries in our desperate attempt to get people to love us—whether it has been in a contrived personality or slavish performance—how is God going to respond? When we’ve missed the mark—and we all have—what “God” will we encounter?
Are we going to be greeted by a God who folds His arms and sternly reminds us that we’ll pay for our senselessness? Are we going to see the backside of God as He walks away from us in disgust? Is our craving for acceptance going to result in our ultimate rejection?
In Luke 15, Jesus addressed this very issue in three quick snapshots designed to reveal how God’s heart responds to irreligious, immoral lawbreakers—people like us who were desperate for significance and sought it in all the wrong places.
A lot of sinners were gathering around Jesus. So were the Pharisees and teachers of the law. Both groups had internal problems; the Pharisees covered it up well, but the sinners had given up. Jesus wanted both groups to know what God thinks when people have blown it.
Lost and Found
The first parable (vv. 4-7) is about lost sheep. In an agricultural society, everyone understood the pitfalls of the shepherding profession. If you lost a sheep, you’d be responsible for it. Your reputation as a shepherd was on the line, and so were the financial accounts of the sheep-owner.
So if you lost a sheep, diligently sought to find it, and then found it and brought it back into the fold, you’d celebrate. That was worthy of a party.
The second parable (vv. 8-10) is about a woman who lost a silver coin. That coin would have been worth a day’s wage. Sometimes 10 of them would be made into a headband for the woman’s dowry. It would be precious and sentimental, either as the means for tomorrow’s food or as a tenth of the dowry. If it were lost, there would be an intensive search. And if it were found, there would be a celebration.
But the best-known parable in this chapter is about a son who, against all social protocol and respect, took off with his portion of his father’s wealth and wasted it on reckless living. He did what every young man’s heart tempts him to do. He said, “I’m going to be fulfilled, I’m going to take what’s mine, and I’m going to get what I want to be happy and important.” He fell for the false promises of momentary pleasure. He acted in really senseless ways to find significance—and it all made sense to him.
His reckless living leads where reckless living always leads: to desperate need. After spending all he had, a famine struck the country, and the son got hungry. In order to survive, he hired himself out to feed pigs—the ultimate humiliation for a Jew. And he would have eaten even the pigs’ food, if he could. But no one gave him anything. He was completely bankrupt.
As everyone does after a desperate search for fulfillment has proven foolish, the son reflected on his circumstances. And he came up with a plan: He would return to his father and own up to his own bankruptcy. It didn’t matter that he could no longer be considered a son. Even being his father’s hired help would be better than where he was. He planned to go back, tell his father he’d blown it, and accept what he deserved.
The arm-crossed Pharisees listening to Jesus were set up for the punch line, and Jesus delivered it. The father saw his son from a distance, was filled with compassion, and ran to him. He threw his arms around the son and kissed him.
Do you see how loaded that picture is? The son tried to lay out his plan, and the father interrupted him. He wouldn’t let the repentant son work for his salvation. Instead, the father honored his son with a prestigious robe, a ring representing family authority, and . . . a party. A big one.
Honest to God
The answer for those who crave acceptance and will do anything to get it is that we don’t have to. The heart of God accepts people who have blown it. That’s how He responds when we’ve sought love in all the wrong places and done foolish things that make sense only to ourselves. We try to win the love of others, and after all our elaborate plans have failed and we come back to Him, God has a celebration. His acceptance was the only acceptance that mattered, and realizing that is reason for a party.
Do you see the pattern? Something valuable was lost, there was an intensive search, what was lost is found, and there’s a celebration. That’s how God will meet every single person who finds himself or herself unworthy of His love.
That’s not just a message for unbelievers, by the way. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been a Christian with a sterling record for 30 years. Somewhere along the way, you’ve probably hungered for love and crossed the boundaries in a foolish attempt to get it. And if you have, God has a remedy. Come to Him as a real, honest, repentant child, and ask Him to help. He will, because He always does. That’s the kind of God you will find every time.
About the author: Chip Ingram is President and Teaching Pastor of Living on the Edge, a national radio ministry in the USA.
Silver Ring Thing - creating a culture shift
Hear that? It’s the sound of people’s souls rumbling – they’re starving for relationships. It’s how we’re wired. Whether we want to admit it or not, we want to connect with another person in some kind of relationship – a friend, a date, a spouse. We want to meet someone who understands us and cares. Why do you think we go to chick flicks (and yes, guys even tolerate a few of them)? We love the stories. We love the connection. We want to see two people together happily ever after (or at least till the end of the movie). Why? Because we don’t want to be alone.
We all want to do relationships right. We all want the dream of finding someone to be ‘the love of our life.’ But just walk around at your school and see the drama unfold as people use people and then get discarded to the side – the way we’re doing it now isn’t working.
You want more than that. You want to do relationships right, in a way that’s 180 degrees different than the way most people in the movies, in music, and on your school grounds are relating to one another. You want to find a way to get to know someone that’s in line with the 180 God’s doing in your life. You want to bring what God’s done in your heart into what happens when you’re with someone of the opposite sex – a way that keeps your heart and mind in check.
But before you can live out this 180, you have to grasp an important element of sex: sex is selfless. What you think about sex and how you live it out isn’t just about you. That’s a real 180 from the way the rest of our culture does sex. In movies, music, TV shows or just the couples or hookups you see in your school, it’s all about what another person can do for you – how they can make you feel or what they can do to bring you pleasure.
There’s a better way to do relationships than the fairy tales the rest of the world is trying to live out. But sex isn’t just a personal issue or a personal choice – it’s not that simple. How you view sex and sexuality impacts others. It’s not just your body and your decision. When you start interacting with someone else, you’re responsible for both your actions and theirs.
First Thessalonians 4: 3 – 7 says:
It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.
Reread verse 6: ‘No one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him.’ Even if the other person is a willing participant in a sexual act, there’s some part of it that both people have to own up to. For example if you know someone’s weakness and take advantage of it, you’re arousing desires in that person solely for your own personal gain. Guys use it to get girls to give them oral sex. They see a girl who’s insecure and is afraid of losing the relationship, so they figure if they can’t pressure her to go all the way, they can at least make sure they get something from her.
Girls work it too – getting their needs met by taking advantage of how guys are wired visually by dressing in ways that make sure they are not only noticed but desired.
Wouldn’t you like to live in a way that’s 180 degrees different than the rest of the world, how do you walk this out in your relationships. Spent time pondering the words in 1 Thessalonians 4: 3 – 7, make the quality decision to live and do relationships God’s way.
In the next edition we will look at how we can honour God in our dating relationships, while keeping our hearts and hormones in check!
Taken from Sex 180, by Tim Walker and Chip Ingram. [ISBN 0-8010-4529-0]