The elaborate dance
Someone reading my previous post might think that I'm just an anti-social grump. But I'm acting out of a position I've thought long and hard about.
Two people meet. One is interested in getting to know the other. A signal is sent, sometimes non-verbal. If it is received, and the other is interested, a signal of one sort is sent back; if it is received, and the other is not interested, a different sort of signal is sent.
Romance works this way, as two people move ever closer, sometimes by tiny, tiny steps, sometimes by daring leaps and bounds. But then, all relationships work this way. This is how we get to know each other. This is how we build a relationship.
But not everybody wants the same kind of relationship, or the same degree of intimacy, as the other person. That can be devastating in a romantic relationship, where one wants more, and the other wants less, of a relationship. But you see it even in the greeting line after worship. Some people want to be hugged. Some prefer to shake hands. Some leave by another exit because they can't handle shaking hands. People are different, and that's OK.
Meanwhile, I like to hug well enough -- but I don't want to force hugs on people who don't want them. I wind up trying to read each person greeting me after worship and figure out how this person is most comfortable being greeted. I like to be hugged, too, but I don't like to be mugged, and some people don't know the difference. I try to be charitable about it. If I guess wrong about you, or you guess wrong about me, it's not the end of the world. Maybe our relationship will grow; at least, we'll learn to respect each other's boundaries.
This is also how the invitation to the gospel is given -- at least, the way I give it. You walk into my church, that gives me the right to talk to you about God (at least, from the pulpit). I won't buttonhole strangers on the street, but hey -- you showed enough interest to come here
today. Fair enough. Your initiative leads to a response from me (and others), which leads to further signals of interest from you, and before you know it, I'm inviting you to
come to the Hallowe'en party
join the church
take a confirmation class
go on a retreat
be a Scout leader
whatever seems appropriate.
You retain the right to say or signal No at any point, and I'll respect you enough to back off. It's only when we are both moving ever closer that any sort of explicit invitation should be given.
The reason why I get so irritated at the forced intimacy of customer service is that it pushes itself inside my personal boundaries, without offering any similar exchange in return. It's like the overly cheerful guy who calls you up on the phone to sell you something who asks, "How's your ministry going?" Does this person really want to know, or is this all technique to punch my buttons and get me softened up for the hard sell? You know the answer to that as well as I. I'm offended by it. It's inauthentic.
And I remember reading someone who once said, "Let love be genuine."