Neighbors–A Relationship of Mercy
About the Guest
Who is your neighbor? Women's ministry consultant Susan Hunt encourages women to glorify God is all their relationships, inside the home and out, and to respond to others with mercy and love. Susan recalls how, years ago, God opened her eyes to the truth of the gospel and changed her heart, freeing her from the weight of having to earn God's favor.
Susan HuntSusan Hunt is a mother and grandmother, a pastor’s wife, and the former Director of Women’s Ministries for the Presbyterian Church in America. Holding a degree in Christian education from Columbia Theological Seminary, she is coauthor of Women’s Ministry in the Local Church.
Who is your neighbor?
Neighbors–A Relationship of Mercy
Susan: Unless we have this eternal perspective, we will become settlers and we will see this world as all there is. It is so important to have this eternal perspective where we see that we are moving towards something grand and glorious and that this world will never give us what will be ours when Jesus comes back.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, August 10th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey; and I'm Bob Lepine. We are going to talk today about what older women can do to cast an eternal vision for younger women, about what it means to be a godly woman. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I was with a friend of mine, not long ago, and we were talking about fruitfulness in life. He said, “You know, I saw a study recently that said the most fruitful decade in a person’s life”— What decade would you think would be the most fruitful decade in a person’s life?
Dennis: Number five or number six.
Bob: He said that the 60s are the most fruitful decade in most people’s lives. I thought, “Really? The 60s?” Then he said, “You know what number two is?” I thought, “Well yes; I would think it was the 50s.” He said, “No, it’s the 70s.” He said, “50s are next.” I thought, “Well, I still have some room ahead.”
But ,I think our guest today is demonstrating fruitfulness does not end at the social—
Dennis: You better be careful, Bob.
Bob: Does not end at the time Social Security kicks in. How does that sound? When you get your AARP card, that’s not when fruitfulness ends.
Dennis: Yes. Susan Hunt joins us. Susan, I want to welcome you back to FamilyLife Today.
Susan: Thank you very much.
Dennis: Susan already mentioned her age on an earlier broadcast, and Bob was tiptoeing around that. I thought, “Bob, you are not going to say her age!”
Bob: You are not embarrassed of your age, are you?
Susan: I am very proud of it; I am 72. I just thank the Lord every day. It is a wonderful decade.
Bob: And look at how fruitful your life has been in the last decade, in this decade. I mean, God is continuing to work through you to inspire women to embrace His design for womanhood.
Susan: Well, in the Scriptures, Anna was 84 when Mary went into the temple, and Anna blessed Mary. Do you remember that wonderful story?
Bob: I do, yes.
Susan: And I find great encouragement for that. She was still fresh and green as the Psalmist said, at 84. So, let’s hope.
Dennis: You build your mentoring of younger women around the theme of legacy. You talk about the different relationships that a woman has in her lifetime—that of being a daughter and expressing gratitude, being a sister and leaving a legacy of unity, (now that’s real interesting one with sibling rivalry being what it is in families).
Then you talk about the theme of being a neighbor. And you know, honestly Susan, I think the idea of being a good neighbor today has been lost in this culture. We have got far too many fences and far too many entertainment trinkets in our homes. We just kind of “wall up and hole up,” and we don’t reach out next door to our neighbors. My mom demonstrated this legacy of being a great neighbor. You really believe that’s important, right?
Susan: I really think it is, even within our churches. So often, we are withdrawn and ingrown. The point of these different relationships is: With sister, we want the girls to understand our spiritual sisterhood in Christ and that that relationship—our relationship with other Christians—is going to be a bit different than our relationships with who we define as the “neighbors.”
The neighbors go back to the question that was asked of Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” He went on to tell the parable of the Good Samaritan. So here, we are helping girls to see that we have relationships with Christians, and within our families, that go to one level; but that our reactions to those who are not Christians is going to be different. It is going to be a much more one-sided relationship, which is what the Gospel is.
Bob: In fact, you defined the sister relationship as pursuing the grace of unity—
Bob: but in the neighbor relationship, we are not pursuing unity, necessarily. Right?
Susan: Right, but rather it is mercy. This is an important discussion with our teen girls because many of them have friends who are not Christians. They are bit confused about their responses in those relationships. What we try to help them to see is that their response should be one of mercy, but that there is a level to which they cannot go with those relationships. Of course, then this also carries over into relationships with boys—that they need to understand.
Bob: In fact, to pursue unity with your neighbor may be spiritually counterproductive. It may be spiritually destructive in your life.
Susan: Absolutely. This helps them to begin to get that distinction—that we are not saying to them, “Do not have non-Christian friends,” but, “You have got to always be on guard that those friends are not influencing you, but you influencing those friends with mercy.”
Dennis: What I hear you challenging and empowering women to do with their neighbors is to reach out in to their brokenness and where they are in need—not of being judged—but in need of mercy and looking at them through the eyes of Christ, in need of forgiveness and in need of knowing Him.
I think it so easy with our neighbors to go, “Can you believe what our neighbors have done here? You know, they are divorced.” It is easy for the Christian community to really be judgmental. You are calling women to look at these neighbors and extend the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them in a very real way.
Susan: Yes. The only reason I am a sister and a daughter, within God’s family, is because of God’s grace. So, I must look at the neighbors with great mercy, which hopefully will help our young girls and our women to look at their own neighbors in their neighborhoods, who are not Christians, with greater mercy. To even look beyond to community needs, where we can go out and be serving in the homeless shelters or the crisis pregnancy centers. We go with the mercy of Christ.
Bob: One of the other relationships that you help women embrace is the relationship of being a wife. Again, some of the young women that you are talking to, they are not wives yet. They may grow up and have the gift of singleness. How are they to understand this wife relationship if they are not married?
Susan: The grace that we are pointing them to is that of oneness. What we try to help the young women to see is that we must learn to glorify God in every relationship. We must learn to be life-givers in every relationship before marriage. Now, if God gives you marriage and you have learned to be a life-giver, then you bring that into the marriage.
Last summer, I was discipling a young college woman. She was on the West Coast; I was on the East Coast. We were doing this via e-mail, just to see how it would work. We never talked; we just emailed back and forth, put all of our thoughts into writing.
One of her questions to me was, “How do I learn to be a life-giver when I don’t even have a boyfriend?” My answer was, “Now is the time to learn to be a life-giver because if you wait until after marriage, you are going to have a lot to undo.” So, you learn to be a life-giver; and then you bring all of those relational skills into the marriage. Whether a woman is married or not, we still need to learn that wonderful relational perspective of being life-givers.
Dennis: Susan, whenever you think of the description of a godly woman, everybody always runs to Proverbs 31; but the rest of the Proverbs really speak on a number of occasions, challenging woman to be those life-givers. One of them is talking about how death and life are in the power of the tongue. A woman’s words can either bring life or death to those people around her.
Susan: That is so descriptive, isn’t it? It's just amazing. The power of words is incredible. One of the things that we talk about in the material is the ministry of encouragement. How do we learn to be encouragers with our words and with our actions?
That is such an important thing for women to learn is, “How do we learn to become women whose husbands can say, ‘My heart is safe with her.’?” I will ask my husband sometimes, “Is your heart safe with me?” I encourage young women, “Think about it. Is your husband’s heart safe with you or does he fear your criticism, your disappointment, your expectations that he just cannot live up to, he can never get it right?”
All of those intangible ways are ways that we bring support into a marriage. It really begins with our own heart. Our husbands can read us. They can see if we are saying one thing, but on the inside, we are disappointed with them.
Dennis: Susan, as you were talking about a wife being a safe woman—a safe wife to confide in and who comes alongside her husband—that resonated with me. I think there are a lot of women who kind of eased forward on the edges of their seat. Can you share an illustration of what that looks like when a wife is being that safe woman for her husband?
Susan: It is something that has to grow over years. It is not just a one-time event, but I will give you a one-time illustration that I think will help us to see what it means. Many of our young men today are in very stressful situations in their jobs, with all of the unemployment.
Our son-in-law who is such a wonderful godly man has been able to keep his job; but in so doing, his responsibilities have increased. He has probably tripled in his responsibilities. So, recently, he was away. The little eight-year-old began crying, “I want my daddy. I want to see my daddy. I want to call my daddy.” Then, the six-year-old pitched in. We women can really feed off each other; and so she began crying, same thing.
Our daughter sat them both down and said, “Your daddy has told you that you can call him anytime. The reason your daddy is away is because he is providing for us so that I can be at home with you. Now, you can call your daddy; but you are not going to call him, crying, because it would make him sad. It would make him feel guilty, and we are not going to do that to him. When you can call him and encourage him, and when you can call him and be happy, you can call.”
The eight-year-old, Maggie, said, “Ohhh (sniffling). Ohhh (sniffling). Okay, I will wait until tomorrow;” (laughter) and she did. Well, our daughter called me the next day and said, “Mom, did I do the right thing?” I said, “Absolutely. You are teaching those girls to be life-givers, not to make their dad feel guilty.”
Those are the sorts of things that we need to do to help our husbands. We don’t need to take out our frustrations and to make them feel that they are not doing their part. So often, young women have unrealistic expectations of their husbands; and we need to be encouragers.
Bob: Well, not only did your daughter train her daughters in the right direction; but I am thinking of the wives who call a husband who is away and go, “Can't you come home? Do you have to go on that trip again?” Instead of being the life-giver, instead of being a safe place where he can go and feel supported, she is eroding their relationship by doing that. Isn’t she?
Susan: Absolutely. Then, when he does come in, so often she throws up her hands and says, “I am done! You take over now,” and he is exhausted. We need to understand that providing for a family is such a godly, sacrificial manly-thing. When men do that, we need to see it as a spiritual service; and we need to appreciate it. I am afraid, too often, women don’t.
Bob: It seems like some people are spontaneous or natural with their affirming words. They are just people who are always finding the good in others and saying it. Seems like other people—it's just not natural—and they have to do it, almost by a discipline.
Now, you seem like one of those natural kinds to me. I am guessing that around your house, you were just kind of naturally always looking for things you could affirm with Gene or with the kids. Is that the case, or did you have to train yourself to use your words to affirm?
Susan: Before I was a Christian, I was such a critical, negative person. I did have to learn. I had to begin to understand the power of words. I had to pray a lot; I had to repent a lot. God just changes our hearts. He really does!
Just to say words with our mouths that we are not experiencing in our hearts, it's just flat and empty. All I can do is say, “Thank you, Jesus, that You changed my heart. You gave me such a love for You—that You put the words in my heart.” He really does.
Bob: I just have to—I can’t imagine a critical, hardhearted Susan Hunt. When did you come to faith?
Susan: I was 22.
Bob: What was it? I mean, just tell the story of how God did a transforming work in your heart and the change that took place.
Susan: I grew up in the church, very religious and very proud; but a time came when I was so empty, right after college, that I did not know what to do. I had to do something religious, and so I went to seminary to study Christian education. In a seminary class, I heard the Gospel. I had thought up to that time that I had to earn my salvation, “Be good enough and you go to heaven. If you are not good enough, you don’t go to heaven.”
There, I heard the Gospel. My ears were opened to the Gospel for the first time. Everything I had learned growing up as a child, all the Bible verses I had learned, suddenly came alive, suddenly made sense. God intervened in my heart and turned me to Himself.
Bob: What did you hear that was different than, “You have got to perform this way in order to please God?”
Susan: I am not sure that there was anything different or whether my ears were just stopped and the Lord did not open them. Whatever is the case, at first I was pretty bitter because I thought, “Why did no one ever tell me this before?”
Then I began to understand the sovereignty of God; and I thought, “They probably did.” What all of that did in me was to create such a passion to be sure that no children or youth in our churches ever went all the way through and they did not hear the Gospel.
Bob: The Gospel is that, “Performing your way into God’s presence never works,” but, “that God Himself has done what we need to: He has been perfectly obedient; He has kept all of the Law. When we trust Him, when we follow Him, when we surrender our lives and become His slaves, He has accomplished what we could never accomplish on our own.” That’s where the transformed life comes, as we yield and surrender to him. He begins to change us. Doesn’t He?
Susan: Yes. I had been trying so hard to earn my salvation. Then, I learned, “It has already been earned by Jesus.” My heart just melted before that. Then, to realize that the Gospel would keep growing in my heart—not only has the Gospel saved me—but what Jesus did for me on the cross—every day is sanctifying me.
Dennis: What would you say to the person who is listening right now, who is going, “Susan, that’s me, I thought I had to earn my way. You are telling me that Jesus Christ lived that perfect life on my behalf and then died on a cross to pay the penalty for my sins, was buried, and then was raised from the dead on the third day, and offers that same work of grace in my heart.” How can that person receive that gift?
Susan: Pray and ask Him. Just go before Him and say, “Lord, I believe. I believe. I give my life to You. Please come into my life and change me and make me Your own.”
Then, go to His Word. Start reading His Word, and find a Bible-preaching church, and begin to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus.
Bob: It may be, there are folks listening who are like you were. They grew up in the church. They have been thinking their whole lives that, “If I will just do what the Bible says to do, that somehow that will earn God’s favor.” As they hear you describe your own story, they go, “I need to think differently about this. I need to turn from the way I have been thinking and turn to Christ and follow Him.”
If you are listening and that’s the situation with you, we have got a book we would love to send you. It is a book called Pursuing God that lays out real clearly the difference between trying to perform and earn God’s favor and, instead, trusting in Christ and giving your life to Him, and receiving God’s grace and forgiveness, and the experience of transformation that comes with it.
Dennis: I would encourage people to call us or go online and get a copy of that book and really find out what occurs when you become born again.
As I said on an earlier broadcast, every woman needs a mentor; and every woman needs to be a mentor. I think, Susan, what you have done in all of these workbooks and mentoring manuals that you have put together here is—you have made it so easy for women to make an impact in other women’s lives. In the process, their own lives are going to be changed because, as they are poured out, fresh water is poured into them, as well.
I just appreciate you and am grateful to God for you, Susan. You are a true gift to the body of Christ. I just appreciate you joining us again here on FamilyLife Today.
Susan: Thank you very much.
Bob: You know, I don’t know how many of our listeners realize this, but one of the things we have tried to do here at Family Life is make it as easy as possible for someone to get engaged in mentoring, whether it’s younger men or younger women. We have a team that is working to help equip online mentors and those who would like to be mentors in a one-on-one face-to-face kind of a situation.
There is a training curriculum we put together; it's something we are pretty excited about. You can find out more about how you can be an online mentor with folks who are writing to us, looking for help; how you can help engage with those folks; or how you can be better trained to be a mentor one-on-one. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about how you can engage as a mentor.
Then, we are trying to create resources, much like what you have done, Susan. You have put these workbooks together for older women to engage with young teens around what it means to be a godly woman. We also have a video curriculum we put together called Life Ready Woman, with Shaunti Feldhahn, a woman can bring to her church, or to her women’s Bible study, or whatever group she is a part of. They can all go through the video training together and begin to understand what it means to be a woman in the 21st Century and, yet, to hold to biblical convictions as you live that out.
Again, there is information online about all of the resources that are available. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Find out more about becoming a mentor; find out about the curriculum that Susan has developed for older women to use with young teens; find out about the Life Ready Woman curriculum and other resources we have available.
Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com; or call us toll free at 1-800-FLTODAY (1-800-“F” as in Family, “L” as in Life, and then the word TODAY). When you get in touch, we will answer any question you have about these resources or make arrangements to have the ones you need sent to you.
Now, I just have to mention, how encouraged we have been over the last several days to hear from a number of regular listeners who have been kind of “hiding out,” you have been anonymous while you have been listeners. We have had a number of you who have called or who have gotten in touch with us online and have said, “We are out here. We are listening. We like FamilyLife Today. It is helping. We have just never picked up the phone or gone online and made a donation to help support the ministry, and it’s time to do that.” It’s been fun to watch the little thermometer that we have on our website continue to grow as we hope to get to 2000 first-time listeners who get in touch with us here during the month of August.
To encourage you to do that, we are making available a CD series featuring six messages from the Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway. Dennis Rainey and I spoke at one of these getaways not long ago. These messages are available on audio CD. We will send you this CD sampler from the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway when you make a donation to support FamilyLife Today during the month of August. Again, if you are a first-time donor, that will show up on that thermometer. We appreciate your getting in touch with us. It is always nice to hear from folks who have been listening for a while but have just never made the connection.
If you make your donation online at FamilyLifeToday.com and you would like to receive that CD sampler, you need to type the word “SAMPLER” into the key code box on the online donation form. If you make a donation over the phone, after you make the donation, just mention that you would like the CDs from the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway; and we will get those sent to you.
Again, we want to say, “Thanks,” in advance for whatever you are able to do in support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
Now, tomorrow, we hope you will be here as we are going to be joined by Pastor John Bisagno, who has some wise counsel for married couples. We are going to talk about what real love looks like in a marriage relationship. I hope you can be here for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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