“Read the room.” Chances are high that you’ve either given or received this advice at some point in your life. Maybe it was when you were openly declaring the superiority of your favorite sports team only to discover that you were among rival fans. Or maybe it was when you were confessing your appreciation for the sounds of Florida-Georgia Line only to find yourself surrounded by people who have heard real country music. Or maybe it was when you simply walked into work in a good mood to quickly discover that your cheer was not matched by those around you.
Reading the room can be a valuable skill, but it can also be dangerous. What if your perceptions of others are inaccurate? Or what if your perceptions are accurate but prevent you from speaking the truth in love? As is often the case in life, the danger lies in the extremes. Constantly filtering your actions based on others’ perceived or expected reactions leads to paralyzing fear, but failing to consider the impact of your words and actions on others leads to relational ruin.
After sending His disciples out on mission, Jesus acknowledges that everyone will not receive the good news of the kingdom as the good news that it is. That is the painful reality we see when we read the room of missional living. However, Jesus doesn’t call us either to cower in fear or to embrace the bravado of selfish pride. He calls us to read the room and then to take up our cross. He calls us to count the cost and also the reward. He calls us to follow Him–being willing to proclaim His kingdom, not ours but His. And He calls us to follow His example–not insisting on our own way or our own rights but laying down our lives, our plans, our rights, our will so that we and others find life in Jesus. Following Jesus means reading the room and then taking up your cross.