Circles of relationship, circles of care

The following conversation is based in the notion that being faithful to these texts requires that we get to know our neighbors as well as we know ourselves. Otherwise, how can we know what it means to love them? And how can we share the Good News of God’s love with them if we do not know what they consider Good News?

For surely I know the dreams I have for you, says the LORD,
Dreams for your welfare, and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.
When you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you.
When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart.

The great commandment in Matthew 11 tells us:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength
Love your neighbor as yourself.
All the law and the prophets are summed up in these.

The great commission from Matthew 28 lets us hear Jesus say:

Go into the whole world
Make disciples among all nations
Baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit
Teach them to obey everything I have commanded you
Remember I am with you always

Earlier in Jeremiah 29 we hear the instructions that the Lord gave to the people while they awaited the fulfillment of their redemption:

Build houses and live in them;
plant gardens and eat what they produce
Take wives and have sons and daughters;
Take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage,
that they may bear sons and daughters;
multiply there, and do not decrease.

Seek the welfare of the city,
And pray to the LORD on its behalf,
For in its welfare you will find your welfare.

Intimacy, Influence, Affiliation and Acquaintance

In an effort to get to know our neighbors by listening to and hearing them, we will describe four different kinds of relationships. These are broad categories. There may be others, and some of our relationships may shift from one kind to another and back again over time. All of that is ok, and does not prevent us from understanding ourselves and one another better through this image.

We can think of all the people we know as falling into one of four concentric circles moving outward from ourselves. These are circles of intimacy, influence, affiliation and acquaintance.

Think about your life. Envision all the places you go, and all the people you know. These relationships are opportunities for you to both encounter Christ and to share Christ with others. Paul says that together as disciples of Jesus we form Christ’s Body (RM 12, 1 COR 12). Jesus says that when we serve others, we are serving Him (MT 25). To be His disciples is to let his life live through us in our world.(JN 15, GAL 2).

Circles of Intimacy: Remember that Jesus’ siblings seemed to think he might be crazy (Mk 3:21), and his hometown-hero parade turned quickly into a lynch mob (Lk4). Those who knew us as children often have trouble accepting who and what we have become as adults if it is anything other than what they would have dictated for us given the chance. Not so easy sharing the good news on your doorsteps sometimes. Paul suggested that even in difficult relationships and situations we can witness by our quiet life, and sometimes that is all we can do, and is enough (1 Cor 7:13-17). In other instances we are called to do more.

What are your circles of intimacy?

Circles of Influence: The next group of people are those with whom we have some shared influence – there is a mutual respect and appreciation, or a strong bond through common history, interest or passion. For Jesus, this group included the disciples of John, who he knew were already anticipating the coming of the Messiah and had a deep hope and interest in what God was about to unfold in their day (JN 1:19-51). You know their dreams.

What are your circles of influence?

Affiliation: The next group is those who you interact with perhaps on a daily basis. They are folks we know fairly well, but perhaps not who “remember us when”. These people have a familiarity that brings a level of comfort and credibility, making it easier to earn the right to be heard. They are people you know well enough that you would be aware when they were sick or had a family crisis. You know about some of their relatives. You know their hobbies and interests.

What are your circles of affiliation?

Acquaintance: The next area is our community and region, those with whom we cross paths during the month. Consider where you go in your week that you see the same people repeatedly. You know them by face, and they you, but may not know their name or much about them. You’re not exactly strangers. They would not be surprised if you walked up to them and started a conversation. You know something about them.

What are your circles of acquaintance?

Understanding our circles – seeking deeper knowing

Who is in your circle

What do you know about them that might help to make a “God connection”? What is going on in their lives? What relationships are they in? What are their interests, fears, hopes, struggles, dreams?

Who is in your circles of intimacy?
Who is in your circles of influence?
Who is in your circles of affiliation?
Who is in your circles of acquaintance?


  1. Pingback: Louis W. Hodges « Media Ethics in the Morning

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