Relationship carries with it the element of risk. There is usually risk associated with everything that is worthwhile in life. During a television interview in 1981, Kenneth Hagin was asked what one trait he would desire most for his graduates. Without hesitation he replied, The willingness to take risks. I was in the audience that day during the taping of this interview, and I was waiting for the typical spiritual response when Kenneth Hagin was asked this question. I was surprised and challenged by his answer. By personality I am a risk taker. Some are not. I’ve been willing for most of my life to go where I believe the Lord is leading me, knowing full well there are no guarantees. That has brought me to where I am today. Relationships carry with them the risk that you could be rejected; that the person could mistreat you or take advantage of you. When you choose to be loved by the Father, He will so fill you with His personal love and acceptance that you’re just simply satisfied within yourself by Him. You don’t relate to others out of need, but out of a full, satisfied heart. In that context, you can bear any kind of treatment. Yes, it’s emotionally wrenching at times when people respond to you out of their personal hurt or judgments based on past relationships, but there is such rich gain in being with others that to me it just makes it worth it. The truth of God’s Word lived in the context of relating to others over a period of time has the potential to produce radical personal transformation. I’ve been rejected in relationship often. I think it just goes with the territory of being a pastor. None of us are fully mature, and when you’re ministering and living out of His life, sometimes darkness is exposed. Sometimes it is exposed in me and I have to be willing to lay the wrong thinking, the wrong emotions, or wrong actions at the foot of the cross. The cross is where what I want to do and how I feel about a situation meets the Word and God’s will for me. And I choose God’s way over my thoughts and feelings. Darkness is exposed at times in another person while I am relating to them. I must choose to remain loving, caring, and real. I must choose not to judge them, but rather lovingly woo them. This can be the difficult part of relationships. My cross is where I chose to defy my feelings and love and reach out. I must be willing to stay with truth in love and not force my will on the other person. We carry with us baggage from past relationships. We carry judgments about people and about life in general. And those judgments produce expectations that people may mistreat us again the way others have in the past. We must be willing to lay these judgments down by forgiving those who have mistreated us. We must be willing to risk closeness again though these expectations tell us that we’ll be harmed again. That’s where the love of God come shining through. God’s love poured out in our hearts is the antidote for trouble in relating to others. I must recondition myself to act, respond, and abide in love. That’s where my spiritual growth occurs. For without love, I am walking in the flesh and in darkness. Though this may be long, listen again to 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 in these several translations tied together. Make a choice today to risk close relationships. There are worth it! Let me describe love. It is slow to lose patience; love stays in difficult relationships with kindness, and it always looks for ways to be constructive. There is no envy in love. It is not possessive and never boils over with jealousy. Love makes no parade of itself; it never boasts, nor does it puff up with pride. Love is never arrogant and never puts itself on display, because it is neither anxious to impress, nor does it cherish inflated ideas of its own importance. Love never gets irritated and is never resentful. Love holds no grudges, and it keeps no record of evil done to it. Love refuses to be provoked and never harbors evil thoughts. Love is not rude or grasping or overly sensitive, nor does love search for imperfections and faults in others. Love does not compile statistics of evil or gloat over the wickedness of other people. On the contrary, it is glad with all good men when truth prevails. Love celebrates what is real and not what is perverse or incomplete. Love never does the graceless thing. Love has good manners and does not pursue selfish advantage. Love never insists on its own rights, never irritably loses its temper, and never nurses its wrath to keep it warm. Love is not touchy. Love can stand any kind of treatment because there are no limits to its endurance, no end to its trust. Love bears up under anything; it perseveres in all circumstances. Love’s first instinct is to believe in people. If you love someone, you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best in him, and always stand your ground in defending him. Love never regards anyone or anything as hopeless. Love keeps up hope in everything. Love’s hope never fades. Love keeps on keeping on! It trusts in God in every situation and expects God to act in all circumstances. Love goes on forever. Nothing can destroy love. Nothing can happen that can break love’s spirit. In fact, it is the one thing that still stands when all else has fallen.