Every husband will tell you there is very little value in bringing home flowers for his wife after an argument if the gesture isn’t genuine. Flowers, if only given to as a means of escaping shared time with the family dog in his well-appointed abode, simply don’t cut it. Most wives know when there is genuine sorrow being offered. Most wives can see beyond the flowers to the heart.
Likewise, I can tell you out of personal experience bringing flowers home because “it’s the right thing to do because I read it in a book about being a good husband” is about as effective as decaffeinated coffee waking me up in the morning!
Seriously. Someone needs to comment below and tell me the point of decaf – I like my coffee fully-leaded!
What seems to be missing in both how we restore and nurture our relationships is an attentive posture of other-centered listening.
A husband who is tuned into his bride’s life intimately may know that, on this particular day, flowers brought home would mean more to her than winning the lottery. Those kind of flower deliveries mean something beyond the flowers to her. It means he knows her well. Those kinds of flower deliveries reflect the very beauty of God. So does chocolate in this situation, by the way.
But, it can be so tempting sometimes to decouple our acts of service toward others we love (as well as in our Kingdom ministry work) from a posture of listening. Just tell me what to do!
And this sort of obedient service seems to be, at first glance, exactly what Jesus wants from us.
He tells us in Matthew 7 (my translation):
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven,
Clear enough, right?
but, those who enter the kingdom of heaven will do my Father’s will.
Clear enough, right?
Great Jesus! I win!
Look, I prophesied in Your name! I performed miracles! I drove out demons.
I drank decaf because it was healthier.
Aaaand, get this: I brought my wife flowers every Friday whether I felt like it or not.
And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Jesus tell goes on to tell us in verses 24-27 that those…
who are listening (notice the present tense) to Him, those who hear what He says and live according to what He modeled for us with His life, are like a wise man who built his house on a rock, on a firm foundation.
This entire passage is about the relational connection we have with Jesus! It’s about first hearing, then doing. It’s about being attuned to what Jesus wants and then moving outwardly in love just like a husband who is attuned to his wife’s heart will move toward her differently in active love than one who simply brings home flowers because he’s supposed to.
The firm foundation is being close enough to Jesus to hear what He has to say, not just blindly doing what we think He wants us to do without risking our hearts over to His gentle care.
The firm foundation being spoken of here in Matthew 7 is about being close enough to Jesus to hear the word, “Beloved” and being wrecked upon hearing it. And then hearing the words, “let’s do this together” gently spoken as an invitation amidst our tears of joy at the realization of our deep and eternal belonging.
The firm foundation is not simply, “do this.” There’s so much more depth, so much more relationship, so much more intimacy involved here.
Like the wife in our story, Jesus wants us to know Him well. This is the firm foundation. All of our genuine flower deliveries to Him and others stand on this foundation.
The reason Jesus tells the doers to depart is because they missed the point. They took the easy road of doing over the hard road of surrender. They took the easy road of doing over being known and truly knowing this Lord they serve.
It’s so hard to accept the kind of love Jesus offers BECAUSE it isn’t tied to our doing! We much prefer to be evaluated, to earn. I’ve heard it said that hell is populated by those who just can’t seem to bring themselves to accept the unconditional love Jesus has for them. I’m not sure of the theology, but I am sure there is some truth to that.
I began and am now ending this post imagining a marital conversation because scripture characterizes our relationship to Jesus as a marriage in many places, but – and don’t miss this – Jesus doesn’t want us to bring Him flowers out of obligation!
Wife: You didn’t listen to me, honey. I didn’t want flowers. I didn’t want you to complete honey-do lists for me. I wanted you. I wanted your heart. I wanted you to truly know me.
I think if we think of this passage in terms of a marriage it will get us closer to what Jesus really wants us to hear and live out.
This passage of scripture make clear that obedience to what Jesus wants is much more relational than simply obediently doing. Jesus seems to think of obedience much differently than we do. We can obediently perform our whole lives and miss the entire point.
What benefits do you see in our temptation to reduce the Christian life to one long to do list? Is there control involved, a desire to serve so as to avoid vulnerability? Something else?
What role does your heart play in being obedient to what Jesus wants? What does that have to do with listening?
What postures and practices are present in your life to attune your heart to Jesus’ heart?