“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.”
We are called to be agents of God’s grace. That means if the gospel isn’t happening in you, then it won’t happen through you.
The Lord often works through us to meet the needs of others. Paul himself was a recipient of God ministering to him through others. 2 Corinthians 7.5-6 tells us that during a time of great need, God ministered to Paul through Titus. “For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn— fighting without and fear within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus.”
God doesn’t go around his people; he goes through his people. When we help others, we fulfill the law of Christ. Why? Because it is an act of love, which is the great command of the kingdom of God. “And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
Here is a key point: You can’t help everyone, and it would be foolish to try. However, the Lord has given you a circle of friends and a circle of fellowship. I call it “20 square feet,” which is simply a metaphor for your sphere of ownership and influence. Within that circle — within your 20 square feet — you should be aware of what is happening, and you should help when and how you can.
This is the key to powerful culture, healthy communities, and strong teams … when people take ownership of their 20 square feet, take responsibility for their own attitude and behavior, and proactively support and help others bear their burdens.
Here is a practical way to think about influencing and impacting the people in your life. You have proximity to many, position with some, and permission from a few.
Proximity to Many
Your life touches a lot of people. You are surrounded by friends, co-workers, neighbors, and acquaintances. But while you are in proximity to many, you will not be able to directly impact most of them in a personal way. Proximity does not equal responsibility.
Position with Some
You have a much more personal place and position in the lives of a smaller group of people. Your family and the people you work with every day are certainly in this more intimate circle. These are the people you are in a position to influence either directly or indirectly. They are the people who feel your attitude, see your actions, and hear your words with great frequency. They are the people who experience the fruit of the Spirit (or the works of the flesh) in you and through you on a regular basis.
Permission from a Few
To maximize your impact on someone, you need their permission to speak into their life. That kind of permission is earned; it is called trust. Through your attitude and behavior, you must earn the trust of a person so that they give you access to the kind of conversation and relationship — the kind of fellowship — that allows you to discuss the stuff that is real and deep.
Keep in mind that trust is not given based on your position; trust is earned through your behavior.
Take ownership of your 20 square feet. Cultivate your sphere of influence. Pay attention to what is happening in the lives of the people with whom you have position, and then earn their trust so that they give you permission to be an agent of God’s transforming grace in their lives.
“We are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.” (2 Corinthians 5.20)