Life is all about relationships. Relationships are messy. We can not get away from the fact that people are inherently sinful and messy creatures and are in desperate need of help. The sooner we realize that in life we are going to be disappointed or hurt by relationships, the sooner we can start to learn how to respond when things start to turn sour.
Realistic View of People
All it takes is quick scan through the Bible to see that relationship problems is not a new thing. The very first family was torn apart by jealousy. Jacob manipulated everyone that he came into contact with to accomplish what was in his own best interests. At then end of his life Jacob’s blatant favouritism toward his son Joseph caused the rest of the siblings to despise and hate Joseph. Things were so bad that the brothers actually planned on murdering Joseph. The only thing that saved him was the fact that the oldest brother, Reuben, convinced the brothers to simply throw Joseph into a dry well. Now, before you point to Reuben as being proof that people are fundamentally good, you have to realize that the only reason Reuben wanted Joseph kept alive is that it was in Reuben’s own best interest. He had lost his special standing as firstborn of the house because he had slept with his father’s concubine. He was now faced with a possibility of regaining favour if he could bring Joseph back to Jacob and present himself as the saviour of the favourite son. The Bible is filled with stories of people at their absolute finest. So ok, people are messed up. What’s the point?
The point is, even though people continued to fail, God is still sovereign. In spite of everything that man could do to mess up, God still accomplished everything that He willed to accomplish. He worked through the broken lives of people who had suffered pain and loss and rejection at the hands of others, and had caused their own fair share of pain in return. So that’s great. God is still God and God has a plan, but what does that have to do with our messed up relationships? Everything.
Yahweh is a relational God. He desires to have a relationship with each one of use. Our relationship with Him is inherently severed by our fallen, sinful state. As a result, there needed to be a plan to deal with the sin issue. That plan was revealed in the person and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, God’s own Son. Jesus came to earth and served as a ransom to deliver us from the fallen state that we were in through His work on the cross. As a blameless substitute for our death He made a way for us to have a real relationship with our Creator. We can now have direct access to God through Jesus, and have been freed to live lives free from sin. Once we get our relationship with God figured out, we can also start to deal with our relationships with other people. Now, we all know that the people of the world are still fallen and sinful, but within the Church everything should be all happy and sunshine and roses. If we all love Jesus then we should all love each other and nothing should ever happen to cause us pain or hurt in our relationship with other believers, right? Well, the key word there is should. We should love unconditionally and put others before ourselves and be a conduit of God’s love flowing through us, but that isn’t always what happens.
An Ongoing Process
Jesus sent the Holy Spirit into the lives of all believers to continually work through us to conform us to the image of Jesus. We refer to this ongoing process as sanctification. As we walk with Jesus and study His Word and fellowship with Him we are continually learning to put to death our selfish desires and tendencies and live in a holy, loving manner. When we put our faith in Jesus and are saved by His redeeming work, some things change immediately. We are brought from death to life, we no longer are slaves to the impulses of sin and we are now legally declared righteous before our Maker. But, some things are not so immediate. A quick examination of ourselves and those around us reveals that we all have a long ways to go in this journey to become more like Jesus. It is important in how we approach our relationships that we realize this. As we work together with brothers and sisters in Christ we need to realize that we all have a long ways to go, and we need to go back to the Word let it teach us how to related to one another. Have I been wronged or hurt in my relationship to my Christian brother? Yes, but I have also wronged and hurt God, and how did He respond? He responded in grace and love and forgiveness of sins. If God has already forgiven the sins of our brother, then who are we to not forgive them also? Sometimes disagreements in ministry happen, but how we deal with them is vitally important. In Acts 15:36-41 we see a situation where Paul the “super-apostle” and Barnabas had an argument. Barnabas wanted to bring along John Mark on their next missionary journey, but Paul was stubbornly opposed to the idea. The dispute was so severe that this team was ripped apart and went their separate ways. What we need to focus on is what happens behind then scenes. Sometime between the parting of the ways and the writing of Colossians, Paul and John Mark reconciled and were now engaged in fruitful ministry together. At the end of his life, Paul writes to Timothy and asks that he bring John Mark to him that they might labor together. Are relationships in the Church going to be perfect? No. People will still let people down, and hurtful words will be said, and pain is going to happen. The important part is the reconciliation and healing that happens. If we have a proper perspective and focus, in the end the issues just don’t seem so big. If Jesus died to restore our broken fellowship with him, then we can at least humble ourselves in our relationships with each other.