Over the weekend I had some great conversations about being intentional in relationships. I'll call it intentionality (though if you were to look up the dictionary definition of this, it wouldn't quite fit...I'll assume that you know I mean "being intentional" when I use the word "intentionality"...if it wasn't safe to assume that before this point, now you know that's what I mean).
My history (how I grew up, where I grew up, the system I was born into) is marred with a "results matter" ethos. When this translated to relationships and "intentionality" it meant that I enter into relationship with you in order to achieve a result. If you do not know Jesus, I am intentional with you in order that you may come to a "saving knowledge of Jesus." If you do know Jesus, I am intentional with you in order to build a friendship that will reinforce our commonly held world view and presuppositions. If you claim to know Jesus and follow him differently than me, then you must not really know Jesus and I intentionally (best case) avoid you or intentionally (worst case) bad mouth you to make sure that my beliefs stay undefiled.
Thus, relationship was never truly relationship. Relationship with a "non-Christian" was to result in "sharing the Gospel". Relationship with a "Christian" was to result in a mutual support of our dogma. And relationship with "those other Christians" just didn't happen so that bad theology wouldn't result..
There was quite a bit of intentionality to relationships - but this was always coupled with a hidden and not so hidden agenda aimed at results.
Though I recognize that some relationships just click naturally and effortlessly, I don't think it can be argued too much that relationships often do take a great deal of intentionality. Most of the time, if I want to develop a relationship with someone, often it takes being intentional about picking up the phone in order to make plans.
But here's what I've learned...there does not have to be a secondary agenda. If I develop relationship with someone who doesn't know Jesus, I can develop that relationship without making sure it will meet a desired result. We can build a relationship and I can trust that Jesus will be present in me. Thus, that person is getting to know Jesus simply by getting to know me. If I develop a relationship with someone who does know Jesus (whether or not they believe the same as me), our relationship doesn't need ulterior motives. In relationship with another Jesus-follower, my beliefs, values, perspectives, and faith should be both challenged and supported in a fashion that draws me closer to God and Jesus.
I've decided to be a little more intentional in my relationships. Not to achieve results, but because I believe that Jesus is present in me and if I'm not intentional in relationships, I'm not following God who intentionally sent his son to be in relationships with his creation.
How much intentionality is a part of your life? I used to think that intentionality had the probability of coming across insincere, but this perhaps isn't the case. Thoughts?