Monday, March 26, 2012

Response to "Do You Filter Your Relationships" from Donald Miller

On March 26, 2012, Donald Miller published an article to his blog entitled "Do You Filter Your Relationships? You Probably Should"  You can read the article for yourself if you would like, but his basic premise is there are people who will negatively affect you.  Don't let them be a part of your life.

In response, an author who refers to herself as 'Z' writes an articulate and respectful rebuttal to Miller's post.  You can find that response in the comments section at the above link.  Her premise is essentially Jesus calls us to accept everyone in our lives.  It's part of being a Christian.

I agree with Miller and with 'Z'.


Have you ever heard anyone talk about circles of influence?  It is a relationship model that looks like a target.  I learned about it in seminary, and have seen it here and there in my reading.  It looks like this:

See my beautiful artwork?  I obviously lack skills in handwriting and drawing.  You can even see how I messed up on the back.

In your life there is you.  Then there is your inner circle.  These people are really, really close to you.  This might be your wife, your best buddies, your mentor, your siblings, etc.  My wife and my parents are in my inner circle.  I don't make any life decisions without talking with them.

Next, you have friends and family who play a significant role in your life.  You don't necessarily run life decisions past them.  You don't necessarily bare your soul to them, but they are important to you in an emotional way.  We have friends that we see several times a year.  I love being around them.  I love exchanging ideas with them, and hearing what they have to say.  I love to keep up with them, and watch their families grow.  You have people like this in your life.  You know what I mean.

Then there's everyone else.  These are the people who are not close to you.  It is a pretty broad group since it includes the rest of the world.  What does Jesus say about the rest of the world?  He says to love them.  He says that "God so loved the world that he gave his only son"(John 3:16).  These people are in your life as we are all part of the same world.  When we encounter these people, we should be respectful and friendly, seeing Jesus among them.

Let's take a look at Jesus' earthly ministry for a second.  Jesus used this model for his relationships.  There was Jesus.  Then there were three - Peter, John, and James.  Next were the 12 plus some of the other folks that he hung out with frequently.  Then there was everyone else.  Some of these people loved Jesus and followed him.  Some hated Jesus and tried to kill him.  While Jesus is God, he was limited during his earthly ministry by his human condition.  Jesus escaped the crowds throughout the gospels to rest, or to pray with his circles.  Why?  Because these other people were exhausting.  Did he love them?  Yes, but he couldn't be around them all the time.  Their immediate needs would have derailed his ultimate purpose of saving the world.

My point is not to get into a lengthy theological debate about who really is in Jesus' circles.  While Jesus is 100% man, he is also 100% God.  I trust my readers do not share this precise scenario, so I ask you take what I am saying in good faith.

Crashing the Party

Sometimes someone can inadvertently wander into a circle where he or she doesn't belong.  The effects of this can be devastating.  Think abuse - emotional and physical.  Maybe someone always needs you; he's always pulling you away from your family to help with this or that, never gives back, and really doesn't give a rip.  Maybe this one dude gains your confidence, then embarrasses you, on purpose, in front of your coworkers.  Sometimes rotten spouses can destroy their wives' or husbands' lives.

When someone is too close to you, he needs to be demoted.  You can demote him to that outer group of friends or to "everyone else" land.  This doesn't mean that you are condemning him or her to hell.  It simply means it's not a good relationship.

One might contest that demoting someone will prevent you from sharing Christ with him.  Let me ask you this.  If this guy is throwing you off your game all over the place, are you really going to be an effective witness?  Maybe you are not the one God is using to share Christ.  Do you think you are the only one God can use?

Wait a second!  Did God ever demote anyone?  Let me think...Satan, Adam and Eve, Judas Iscariot to name a few.  Yes I think he did.

In conclusion, I agree with Miller and Z.  If someone is truly a jerk, we should demote him.  That doesn't mean we curse him, or hate him.  It simply means we put them in a place of less importance regarding our own life path.  If someone is a bad influence on you, stop listening.  Garbage in garbage out.


  1. Hi, Chase!

    This is "Z." Thank you for the compliments about my response to Miller's post.

    You wrote above that "Her premise is essentially Jesus calls us to accept everyone in our lives. It's part of being a Christian."

    Actually, I disagree, and hope that my response to Miller did not convey that I believe we should accept EVERYONE, if accept means to keep interacting with unsafe people REGARDLESS. That could be dangerous!

    I actually intended my premise to be more along the lines of "When inspired to cut people out of your life, check with God first! Pray about it: He may want to empower you to love difficult people or people having difficulties." That's all I meant! You might need only to change the relationship, not end it. God will guide us to know which it is. I've been a person having difficulties, and I am so glad that I wasn't just "cut out." Some people were empowered to keep loving me, helping me gain awareness. This mattered! Because then, I didn't go into despair, leave the church, etc.


    1. Thanks for clarifying. I didn't mean to misconstrue your statement. Even so, it led me into some constructive comments.

      It is incredibly important for people to guard their hearts as they are the wellsprings of life. It is also important that we use wisdom and the Spirit's guidance in relating to anyone. Letting the wrong people too close is a mistake, but being unwilling to love someone, regardless of our relationship to him or her, is also a mistake. The only people who should be "cut out" of our lives are people who are dangerous to us - physically or emotionally. For anyone else, I would say that the relationship simply needs to be changed a little if that relationship is becoming a detriment in a real way - not just a convenience way.

      Nice thoughts again. Thanks for commenting, Z. This is a really complex subject we could discuss to no end.