The rotating door of military life is often one of the hardest things about it. We're often picking up our roots and planting them somewhere new, which leaves us with hard goodbyes in the communities we leave behind. And if we aren't leaving, someone else usually is. The results can leave military spouses feeling lonely and isolated.
But the rotating door, and the skills it builds in us as we tackle it, is also one of the most beautiful parts of military life. Military spouses become expert relationship builders and top-notch conversationalists because we get plenty of practice meeting new people. God gave us a lifestyle that teaches us the value of these skills, and it's no surprise that they fit beautifully into the puzzle of Christian life. Our relationships are the most essential element of living this lifestyle missionally.
Every friendship we build, whether with a believer or non-believer, is an opportunity for the Gospel to shine. If we are intentional in the ways that we get to know and interact with others, we can make our rotating door one that's always open to Jesus.
Here are a few ways to be a witness in the relationships you build with others:
Be Curious & Compassionate
“For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings” (1 Corinthians 9:19-23 ESV).
Paul isn't saying here that we should deceive others and copy everything they do just for the sake of acceptance. The core of his identity — his identity in Christ as free from the law, but called to love and serve others — remains intact; we see that in his mission to save others. What Paul is getting at is that we must strive to love those we hope to save by knowing who they are, respecting who they are (without disobeying God), and meeting them where they are.
If you learned that someone you know keeps kosher, you would serve them a kosher meal, whether that's how you eat or not. If you learn that someone is struggling with something, you might search for a way to identify with that struggle and be compassionate toward them. Essentially, Paul is telling us to meet people right where they are because we love them enough to understand where they are coming from. Consequently, loving people this way also helps us take the time to see how the Gospel might be most meaningfully shared with them. Here's a great article from DesiringGod.org about different ways people might find the Gospel meaningful for them.
When we talk about relationships, we don't mean one-way streets. People will hesitate to be real with you if you're never real with them. It is often the most difficult and vulnerable moments in our lives that God uses to shape our faith. For many people, the most relatable telling of the Gospel may be how it transformed you — that’s why your testimony matters. Without authenticity and honesty about who we are apart from God, our testimonies for Christianity wreak of hypocrisy. It isn't believable to share saving grace if you pretend you've never needed saving.
Sometimes the best way to be a witness in a community that faces so many struggles is to simply trust God. When you don't get the assignment you hoped for, another deployment pops up, or other things go wrong, everyone will see the peace, confidence, and ability to rejoice that flow from trusting God. Since we share many experiences as military spouses, others will surely notice and long for those feelings during their own trials. Whether this ever opens up any Gospel conversations or not, it will certainly shine a light into the struggles that others face. We don't have to make Christianity appealing — from our obedience and trust in God flow things that others innately desire for themselves.
Ultimately, as we covered last week, God is in control of our ability to witness to others and their willingness to accept what we say. Sharing the Gospel isn't a story we can tell without His narration, so be sure to bring Him into your missional relationships through prayer. Pray for those who are sharing the Gospel alongside you (Matthew 9:37-38), those you hope to reach (Romans 10:1), and for wisdom as you work to reach them.
Living missionally in every relationship can seem overwhelming. It is a major commitment to really get to know people and pour into their lives. But as you begin to build relationships (that we'll have to build one way or another) with missional intentions, you will also see the ways that your obedience blesses you. You will be challenged in your faith and will often find your own faith strengthened as you seek to share what’s most important to you.
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How many people have you grown to know through military life? What are your thoughts when you consider how many people you could impact for Christ through those relationships?
What are some ways you can make your relationships more missional? Are there any particular individuals who come to mind?
Prayer walk one day this week around your neighborhood, kids school, local base/post, or another place you rub shoulders with a lot of people. Ask God to draw you to those He is already working in and with whom you might be able to build a missional relationship.