Does Familiarity Breed Contempt or Adoration?

41 Comments
March 5, 2013

Sometimes one sentence spoken to you can shift a paradigm and change your life. Last Wednesday, I sensed the Lord speak one sentence to my heart that has set me free from a faulty paradigm that I didn’t even know I was carrying. Even though I was ‘wealthy’ before last Wednesday, the shredding of this false paradigm has opened the doors for me to become even more wealthy than I was before! I want to tell you about this single sentence that I sensed the Lord communicate to me, but before I do that, I need to give you some background.

Vertical Wealth

As I mentioned, I believe true and lasting wealth can only be measured in relational knowledge. I know this might sound a bit pretentious, but I believe I am one of the most wealthy people I know. In my book, a person’s wealth is measured by the quality of relationships one has. Based on this definition of wealth, I believe I am wealthy. My wealth has not come from my own effort, however. My wealth has been given to me as an inheritance.

When the Lord awakens us to the person of Jesus Christ, we enter into a vertical relationship with a person who is the embodiment of love. For most of my Christian life, this relationship was approached from an individualistic standpoint. Although cultivating a quiet devotional life is essential to getting to know the Lord who dwells within our spirit, knowing Christ goes way beyond some super spiritual form of monasticism. A true relational knowledge of Christ involves intimately knowing our brothers and sisters in Christ. This has not always been easy for me, however.

Relational Sabotage

Many years ago, I attended a university to be trained for the professional clergy. During that season, a ‘seed’ was reinforced in my life. This ‘seed’ has functioned like a cancer, negatively affecting all of my relationships. This lie was rooted in an unbiblical understanding of separation and hierarchy.

I was taught that, as a person in clerical church leadership, people would naturally put me up on a pedestal. Regardless if this was right or wrong, this is simply reality. I was also taught that the people I was presiding over would not be able to handle seeing me as a regular ‘lay’ person like them. They would be disappointed and would experience a faith crises. If they saw me for who I was, they may even loose confidence in my leadership, or the church. For these reasons, I was literally taught that there must be a healthy degree of separation between the clergy and laity.

The truth is, this lie didn’t begin in bible college, it began much earlier for me. It’s human nature to make idols out of people. It’s also human nature to place expectations on people without even being consciously aware that we’re doing it. It’s easy to make people into our own constructed image of who we think they should be, or what we may ‘need’ them to be. After a season of getting to know these people, however, we then begin to see their flaws and shortcomings. Who we thought they were, and who we wanted them to be, did not measure up to the reality of what we were seeing. This always has lead to great disappointment for me.

Unfortunately, over the years, I have put many people up on the proverbial ‘pedestal’. Others have also put me up on a pedestal. Sadly, almost all of those relationships are no longer in existence as they ended in great disappointment. As a result, I bought into the lie that ‘familiarity’ is the enemy of relationships. I unconsciously believed the lie that teaches the only way to keep from being disappointed in relationships is to keep people at a distance so they don’t become too ‘familiar’ and lose respect for you. Thankfully, this pattern in my life has begun to change.

Horizontal Wealth

Through a miraculous set of circumstances that occurred almost two years ago, I met a brother and sister in Christ whom I immediately had high regard for. Like my wife and I, this couple had also been on a similar journey of discovery of their new identity in Christ outside of the performance based religious system. Like my wife and I, this journey into freedom had not been easy for this particular couple as well. Needless to say, I have admired and respected this couple from the moment I first met them.

These last couple of years, we have had the privilege of being immersed into the life of a New Testament ekklesia. We have had the privilege of getting to know an entire group of people who are also on a journey out of the religious system, and into the reality of life in Christ. Learning to live in community with this group of people has changed me in many ways. For example, learning to see one another through the lens of the Spirit, and not the flesh, has been more profound than I have realized. It has revolutionized and restored my relationships. Let me explain…

Last Wednesday, my wife and I were having coffee with this same couple that I met almost two years ago. This coffee meeting was no big deal as we simply were getting together to talk about taking a possible trip together. In this interaction with them, however, my view of Jesus Christ was greatly expanded.

This couple didn’t say or do anything externally to reveal Christ to me. We were simply drinking coffee and talking. As a matter of fact, it is difficult to express with words why I was so impacted. All I can tell you is that I saw Christ in them expressed in a way that I had not seen before. I was in awe. It affected my whole day. I began to reminisce about the many times I had seen Christ expressed through this particular couple over the last couple of years, and I was stunned at the realization that there was still more of Christ in them that I had never before seen!

Later that evening, I was in a conversation with the Lord marveling about all of this when I suddenly became aware of something profound. I became aware that the trend of ‘familiarity’ being the enemy of relationships was no longer true.

The trend had been reversed!

Although I respected this dear brother and sister when I first met them, I realized that my respect and love for them had grown immensely over the last couple of years. The more familiar I become with them, the more my admiration of them grows. I asked the Lord…

How can this be?

That’s when I sensed the Lord speak one sentence to me that has freed me from a false paradigm that I had unknowingly been carrying for years. Here is a paraphrase of what I heard in my spirit:

In the flesh, familiarity brings contempt, but in the Spirit, familiarity brings adoration.

WOW! What a bomb shell. When I view others through the lens of the Spirit, familiarity brings more love and adoration, not less. I no longer have to be afraid of familiarity. It’s almost too good to be true. We now are free to know and be known.

I’d like to leave you to consider a few introspective questions.

  • Do you have a history of having deep satisfying relationships? Why or why not?
  • Does being intimately known by others make you uncomfortable?
  • Think about your community of relationships. Has your view and respect for them decreased since getting to know them, or increased?
  • Are you captivated by the beauty of Christ that you see in your brothers and sisters?
  • Which is greater in your eyes, the beauty of Christ that your brothers and sisters express, or their flesh?
  • Do you see the light of Christ in all people in your circle of relationships, or just a select few?
  • Are you captivated by the beauty of Christ that you see in your brothers & sisters?

Embracing familiarity,

Jamal Jivanjee

Jamal Jivanjee

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41 responses to Does Familiarity Breed Contempt or Adoration?

  1. Heather Toftness March 5, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    Jamal,

    Thank you for this timely word! It has so encouraged my heart!

    Heather

  2. Great post, Jamal. Those moments are wonderful when we suddenly realize how we’ve been transformed without even noticing while it was happening.

  3. Julie Champion March 5, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    Love this and amen, brother. You are such a blessing.

  4. I am thrilled with what you wrote because you have eloquently unfolded something I’ve experienced but have yet been unable to explain. I’ve had numerous people say of me, in a negative way I might add, “Oh Lorie, you think everyone is beautiful.” Of course their assessment of me is an exaggeration, but when you are in love with Jesus and you see Him in someone else it’s like a moth to a flame. In the future when I’m struggling to walk in love with others I will hopefully recognize the bad fruit and turn to the Lord. Thanks Jamal!

    • Jamal Jivanjee March 5, 2013 at 6:05 pm

      Lorie,

      I’m glad this post put words to the reality you have been awakened to. To be in love with Christ is amazing, but to see this beauty in our brothers and sisters is off the charts! Thanks for reading and sharing:)

  5. This is absolutely fantastic. I am personally being challenged on applying this to what I feel are mundane tasks in life, at work, etc…it is all meant to be an encounter with Him, if I will allow it to be. I have seen too much not to believe that, but I often revert back. But not to take away from relational aspects of life…we can always dig more of Christ out of folks and situations as He graces us with the eyes and ears to see and hear it.

  6. Amen!!! Wow. That absolutely blows my mind. I have experienced some of this, on both sides of the coin, and I never really thought about it before, but I sometimes feel lacking when people I have spoken Christ to finally see me intimately. Of course, this can only happen in community, but healing comes from that.
    Thanks for bringing this topic to the forefront of my spirit.
    I don’t know of I’ve ever read a blog post that affected me like this before.

  7. When we look back to the garden, the awareness of being exposed was troubling to Adam & Eve. This seems to be a trait that is in our human DNA, we need to ‘cover’ ourselves (hiding our inner most thoughts). In doing so intimacy is a casualty, this leads to a myriad of human based relational issues. Yet when we look back at the very beginning, intimacy was clearly evident, Adam and Eve were in harmony with one another, and their Lord. This seems to be the benchmark that Christ came to restore, not in the flesh, but ‘in’ the Spirit.

    In my life I see the Lord breaking down barriers and restoring, or making new relationships. Just this morning I had a wonderful conversation with a fellow saint. We are able to communicate, and share our experiences that we both have ‘in’ Christ. This loving, open, and vulnerable conversation was Spirit led, and at the conclusion we were expressing our deep appreciation for the way our Lord is working in our the lives and of His saints. Yes it is a truly a beautiful experience to see the adoration that, ‘in’ the Spirit, familiarity brings adoration.

    I treasure this line Jamal:
    “In the flesh, familiarity brings contempt, but in the Spirit, familiarity brings adoration.”

    • Jim,

      Wow, what an insightful comment brother. I’m so thankful that He is reversing the trend to ‘cover’ ourselves. In Christ, intimacy will no longer be the casualty:)

    • Jim,
      That was exactly the line I wrote down on my pad of paper. I am speaking on “organic worship” this coming Sunday, speaking from I Corinthians 14:26ff. Just before I read this post, I looked up the definition of “worship.” It is “the reverent love and adoration given to someone or something.” As we become more familiar with God through His Spirit because of a proper relationship in the Spirit with God, we adore Him more and more which causes deeper worship. Because of this, as we continue through familiarity to draw close to others around us who also possess the same Spirit as us, we are able to see, hear, appreciate and adore that same Spirit as He works in and through them which then drives us into even deeper worship. This whole process also “builds up” the body as the Spirit works and speaks through all of His people which then causes even greater worship. What a wonderful “snowball” effect!

  8. David Breakeronenine Carothers March 5, 2013 at 7:22 pm

    Yeah on the new glasses, vision through the Spirit is so better than through the flesh. We know folks by the spirit Paul said no longer in the flesh 2 Cor.5:16 amen

  9. I’d like to see a follow up article in reference to the questions at the bottom…

    great article… :)

  10. Jamal, Where familiarity does not exist, neither can love exist. Love only grows by the sight in the eyes of the heart. The heart in the matter of love is that we cannot love whom we do not know, that is not real love, but merely in love with the thought of loving and being loved; totally detached from Reality. Love grows deep in the soil, deep in the Life interaction of one another. Love is never stagnant, it either grows or dies away.

    • Jamal Jivanjee March 6, 2013 at 2:42 pm

      Beautiful!

    • your comment Kat reminds me of 1 Peter 1.8-9 amp
      Without having seen Him, you love Him; though you do not [even] now see Him, you believe in Him and exult and thrill with inexpressible and glorious (triumphant, heavenly) joy.
      [At the same time] you receive the result (outcome, consummation) of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

  11. Great point Kat! That love is not stagnant, rather it is grace in response to our human “being-nesses” How can we love someone where there is no basis in reality? We must know who we are loving. Our experience has been that few welcome the awkwardness and discomfort of especially the early stages of this kind of intimate relationship building. The deeper and most precious siblings in Christ that we now have, were built over time, through troubled waters and not without a great deal of sacrifice to each of us personally. Thank you dear Jamal, a very insightful observation and a good one to explore further and further.

    • Jamal Jivanjee March 6, 2013 at 3:32 pm

      A very insightful comment sister. I love what you said about developing the early stages of intimate relationships.

  12. Many believe the lies and do not believe the truth that we are so closely intertwined into Christ that we are good! Our identity is in this new man and not the old. We do not have to be afraid to love and be loved! Know and be known!

  13. Jamal,

    It is so refreshing, relieving, disarming and ground-shaking to read this today. The miles I have traveled in the last four years are ultimately because of His leading; and while they were a desire of my heart as well, there has been a resulting belief in the same lie you wrote about here. It pierces the lie/fear that the more I am known, the less I will be loved. But that doesn’t fit with the reality that I am an irreplaceable image and expression of the Lord of hosts! The mind set on the flesh is INDEED death.

    I have knowingly craved deep, rich, real relationships, and have searched for them in every place I have been. Occasionally a fantastic relationship would occur, and though they have continued beautifully it was always from a distance…reduced to discussing life instead of experiencing it together. Though other factors had the ultimate say in where I have been and how long, I have often judged people and communities quickly only to conclude that they weren’t “it…” even though I didn’t know what “it” was. But whatever it is, I don’t think it’s something that is found, but rather something that is cultivated.

    Now I am in a place where I’ve stayed long enough to make mistakes and feel the weight of them. My flesh wants to pack up, leave, go somewhere else, and start over with new people who I will be sure to show only the most polished version of myself…yeah, riiiiight. But the reality is that the most polished version of who I think I am is dim in comparison to how He sees me and who I am, this moment, in Christ. And in Christ, grace renames mistakes. Thankfully.

    • Jamal Jivanjee March 8, 2013 at 5:56 am

      Brittany,

      Sister, your comment is worth a million dollars to me. Thank you. I’m so very glad the Lord encouraged you and gave direction to your journey through this post. I appreciate your heart sister!

  14. Powerful insight bro.

    I believe a similar shift is critical for healthy parent/child adult relationships: to go from parent to friend/bro/sis.

  15. This is a truth I’ve been thinking upon a lot lately. You’ve expressed so well something that is essential to true, intimate relationships (and therefore the building together of the body of Christ) but so rarely experienced in our culture.
    I’ve enjoyed your writing for a few months now and look forward to continuing to read your work.

    • Jamal Jivanjee March 13, 2013 at 5:56 am

      Thx Leah, I’m glad this put words to what you have been thinking about recently. Just curious, how did you hear about the blog?

      • Honestly, I can’t remember exactly how I initially stumbled upon you. I know I first read your excellent post “The Universal Enslavement of Women”, which was most likely referenced in another blog or blog comment that lead me here. I discovered you, Frank Viola, and Jon Zens around the same time last year (probably one of you led me to the others), and you’ve all three, through your various writings, greatly encouraged and influenced my current thinking on the Institutional Church and American Evangelicanism, for which I am very grateful to the Lord.

  16. The awesome thing about your wealth is that you are wealthy, and so are the people around you! The adoration of the family is clear that it surrounds the whole body. I love this post!

  17. I was just remembering this post earlier this week. On Monday, a friend and I shared very vulnerable things together. He praised me for something. I found myself thinking something along the lines of: if he figures out the rest of me, he would not think so great of me. <— LIE

    Thank you Jamal for pointing out that this is a false mindset, because of your insight, I was able to tell myself Truth; Familiarity breeds adoration. Don't be afraid of familiarity.

    • Jamal Jivanjee April 6, 2013 at 2:57 am

      Rose,

      So glad to hear this sister. When we get the right kind of eyes for one another (2 Cor. 5:16-17), our delight and adoration for one another can only grow. You’re right sister, you have nothing to fear:)

  18. Jamal,
    Great post. We live in a world of surface level acquaintance’s. People ask you “how are you”, most do not really want to know. I have definitely experienced some of what you wrote though in the small circle of believers that I am in community with. The more that they reveal themselves, the more you can see their brokenness and need for Jesus, this alone draws you nearer to them and helps you to see Christ in them. I am very transparent with people. I want them to see the real, messed up me. If this scares them off, well, I am probably better off. I wonder how many people sit in churches across this Country, who really don’t share life deeply with anyone. Worse than that, how many pastors that dont share their life with those in the body due to what they were taught.
    Craig

    • I’m so glad that the Lord has caused our paths to cross brother. His life shines in you beautifully, and it is a sight to behold!

  19. Jamal. I experienced similar relational wealth from the first day the Lord apprehended me.
    It took me decades to realize He literally planted Himself in me, resulting in an insatiable hunger to experience Him in others every day. Through years of tilling and pruning, He weeded out our collective independence, pride and finger pointing, leaving our personalities intact, and making it impossible to go without Him in one another.
    I was 17 when that journey began, and at nearly 60, and after being reduced to love, I can say I am now utterly consumed with a desire to see Him spread His wings over His people, enveloping us like mother hen.
    Our pretend wealth is losing its glitter, as we are being properly dissolution-ed from seeking security in our own hewn cisterns.
    It’s painful, and shouldn’t be necessary to go through..
    And we can stop this circus, as we persevere in intimacy, surrendering to Christ in one another. I can already see our youngsters following us. They’re hungry too, looking for relational wealth, and haven’t yet been sullied by it’s false glow. My wife’s and my wilderness journey is paying dividends, as our 4 children and many of their friends passionately seek relational wealth, across a diverse spectrum of believers, regardless of their parents divisions.
    Your experience is added proof that He is restoring His house.
    blessings
    Greg

    • Greg,

      What a beautiful and rich comment. Thank you! You are right, He truly is restoring His house. I’m thankful for your perserverance brother.

  20. Very timely indeed. The Lord has been speaking to my heart this week on the same thing. I am reminded of the beauty of pearls which have been formed by irritation or diamonds formed under pressure. The Lord has been revealing His love through His body like never experienced except in real community with my brother’s & sisters. I am so thankful He has led me to this place.

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