Christians, Do You Have Real Love?
What better way to celebrate Valentine's Day than to consider the elements of what makes love real. For the past few months, TRINICY Contributor David Kowalke has been hard at work on a three-part article series on this very subject. Check out the video teasers, the article outlines, and the link to the full articles below!
Pssst... Make sure to scroll to the very end to read a very special dedication message.
part i: relational pattern, faith, & freedom
Part 1 Main Points
THE DIVINE BLUEPRINT FOR RELATIONSHIPS (RELATIONAL PATTERN)
1 Corinthians 3:9: “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.”
THE FOUNDATION CALLED “JESUS” (RELATIONAL FAITH)
1 Corinthians 3:11: “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
WALL #1 CALLED “FORGIVENESS” (RELATIONAL FREEDOM)
Ephesians 4:31-32: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”
Read the full Part I article HERE.
part iI: relatonal example & balance
Part II Main Points
WALL #2 CALLED “GRACE & TRUTH” (RELATIONAL EXAMPLE)
John 1:14: “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
WALL #3 CALLED “PRIORITIES” (RELATIONAL BALANCE)
Colossians 3:22, 23: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
Read the full Part II article HERE.
part III: relational mandate & success
Part III Main Points
WALL #4 CALLED "AGAPE" (RELATIONAL MANDATE)
John 13: 34-35: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even [just] as I have loved you, that you love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
THE ROOF CALLED BLESSING (RELATIONAL SUCCESS)
1 Peter 2:4-5: "Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."
Read the full Part III article HERE.
This three-part article is dedicated to my wife Cindy, who has persisted with me for 43 years. Her strength, patience and example of love has been to me my courage, my hope, and my vision of Jesus in this life. Thank you. I love you.
Want to write for trinicy?
If you are interested in writing for TRINICY, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to hear from faithful servants of the Kingdom who have the desire and talent to communicate the word of God in a way that is relevant to our conservative Christian students, scholars, staff, and supporters!
If you haven't yet, please review Part I HERE and Part II HERE before proceeding to the last article in the series!
part III: the building
- THE DIVINE BLUEPRINT FOR RELATIONSHIPS
- 1 Corinthians 3:9 “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.”
- THE FOUNDATION CALLED “JESUS” (RELATIONAL FAITH)
- 1 Corinthians 3:11 “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
- WALL #1 CALLED “FORGIVENESS” (RELATIONAL FREEDOM)
- Ephesians 4:31-32 “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”
PART II: THE BUILDING REAL RELATIONSHIPS
To learn how to relate with one another in a real and harmonious way, we must see the example that Christ Himself displayed, both in His very nature, as well as His manner of life. As we find in John 1:1- 13, the pre-existent Word existed with God, and also was God. At the appointed time, as stated in verse 14, the Word became flesh and lived with people and took on human relationships with His creation while still existing as God.
Jesus, being God Himself, was also perfect man. John 1:14 says that He was, “full of grace and truth,” the only person to be so. Each one of us, while created in the image of God, struggles with personality traits, which, because of sin, are very much less than perfect. We are all able to act in ways that display grace and also in ways that display truth, but we are not in perfect balance as He is - full of grace and full of truth. When Jesus displayed truth, He did not set aside His ability to display grace, and vice versa. When He displayed attributes of justice - as when He drove the greedy moneychangers out of the temple - He did not abandon His love for them, nor His desire to show them grace. When he forgave the woman caught in adultery, He did not excuse the sin, but instead, forgave it. Personifying Truth He said, “Go and sin no more.”
What do grace and truth have to do with relationships? Grace and truth go together like wattle and daub! You might ask what that is. Wattle and daub were used as building materials in many medieval homes, i.e. William Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon in central England. Wattle was made up of sticks that were woven together in a lattice. It was then “daubed” or packed and smeared with a concoction of soil, clay, straw and, yes, sometimes, even animal manure. These twins bonded together to create sturdy walls that have been found to last for hundreds of years!
Contrary to the person of Christ, we tend to be people of grace or truth. People of truth tend to be discerning, disciplined, and goal- and task- oriented. They also tend to be critical, say things like “But it’s the truth,” are not very sensitive to others, and sometimes see people as the obstacle to their goals. People of grace tend to be compassionate, considerate, and generous. They also tend to be naïve, undisciplined, too concerned about ‘feelings,’ and are more interested in ‘process’ than accomplishing necessary goals. If you don’t know if you are either a ‘truth person’ or a ‘grace person,’ just ask those closest to you. They already know! In fact, if they personally lean towards truth, they will probably be more than willing to give their clear and accurate opinion. If they tend towards grace, they might ‘hem and haw,’ flatter or compliment you first, and then couch their assessment, using something like, “Well, it’s just my opinion.”
It is here that many relationships struggle or break down. Complementary relationships are often not between people with the same personalities, abilities, and giftedness. When disagreements and strife are displayed, it often comes from the desire of one person to have the other person be like them. Relating to one another in authentic and helpful ways comes by understanding how Christ is, how we are wired, and the makeup of one another.
However, unity with peace is more than just “balancing each other out.” This might be an issue that needs attention for people who seek to be understood much more than they seek to understand. The goal of people wanting to live real relationships with one another ought not to be a search for uniformity but unity! Our goal is not to become like each other but to become like Christ, which unites us. The person who emphasizes truth does not need to try to be like the person who emphasizes grace, and vice versa. Instead, if we would yield ourselves to becoming like Christ, who is full of grace and truth, it is then that real relationships would be formed and we would experience intimacy and authenticity. How strong and tender those relationships would be!
As we build the Wall of Relationships called “Grace and Truth,” it will be then that we will be behaving more like Christ. Instead of trying to make others more like us, we would treat one another as though they were more important than ourselves (Philippians 2:3). Then, the Building called “Real Relationships” would stand strong, and we, people who will last forever, will bring honor to our Example, Jesus, full of grace and full of truth!
WALL #3: “PRIORITIES” (RELATIONAL BALANCE)
“She says that I don’t say ‘I love you’ anymore. I said that I loved her at the altar! If it changes, I’ll let her know.”
“I need to be at church every time the church doors are open!”
“It’s all about the children.”
“I work this much because I have to! I’ll get together with the kids really soon.”
“It’s up to me to run the show.”
“How can I love anyone unless I love myself first?!”
“I would rather burn out than rust out!”
“When we retire, that’s when we’ll have time for us.”
Question: Which of these statements has the potential for disaster in our most important relationships?
Answer: All of them!
Before you read any further, I would like to request that you stop reading, and get a piece of paper and a pencil. I have my doubts that many of you will take my suggestion and do so, but I will pretend that many did!
Now, write on the top of your paper: MY PRIORITIES. Now I would ask that you take the time you need and write down what you believe the priorities of your life are, in order of their importance. There is no need to prompt you as to content, so be as honest as you can. Name the things that are your priorities, and then in a separate list, write the things that ought to be your priorities
The list of your reality might seem shocking, or discouraging. I might be wrong, but I suspect that many of you, in your attempt at the ideal description of Priorities, have written a shopping list, of sorts. Instead of milk, eggs, bread, etc., you might have written something like: 1) God, 2) spouse, 3) family, 4) church, 5) work, 6) others 7) self, or a version of that. Some have said,
Y ourself = JOY!
If this is the formula for Joy, why is it that joy is so glaringly absent in so many of our relationships? Does this oversimplify the question of Priorities in our personal lives and our relationships, or could it be that it is not simple enough?
The problem with a ‘shopping list’ approach to prioritizing our lives is that one person’s priorities can vary wildly from another’s. Also, if we were to say that God was our number one priority, how could we ever get to the other things that are important in our lives? We would forever be working on that which we deem ‘God-issues’ since it is a goal that is never reached in this life, and we would never get to family, or work, or self. The all too common tragedy of neglected children by, typically, an absent-at-work father, is profoundly stated in the familiar 1974 song entitled, “Cat’s in the Cradle” by Harry Chapman. I highly recommend that everyone, especially parents of still young children, listen to the haunting song, (yes, now would be good) and especially take note of the last words in the final stanza. We are replicating what we show is important in our lives to the generation that is following.
If a ‘shopping list’ is impractical, what then is the solution? How do we live our lives in a way that builds Real Relationships in a world where the siren call of innumerable voices, many being good ones, beckon for our attention?
Imagine a pie - pumpkin, apple, or another. Cut the pie into as many pieces as there are priorities or important issues in your life that you need to give attention to, i.e. church, school, friends, housekeeping, spouse, hobby, family, sweetie, etc. Now, take a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream and plop it right in the middle of the pie. Look good?! Now, which piece of pie has any cream on it? The obvious answer is that they all do. Now imagine that the cream in the middle of the pie is labeled “Christ.” “He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything” Colossians 1:18. This is a better image of the problem of prioritizing our lives. Our goal is not to go from one thing on our list and then, when we have fully attended to that, to go to the next. Instead, our goal is to live a balanced life by having only one priority, the priority of Christ Himself. When we are doing what we ought to concerning each issue (slice of pie) it will be Christ only that is our priority, as it touches each issue.
Certainly, to others it might look to them as though Family is more important than Church, or that Work is more important than Sweetie, etc. But if our priority is always Christ, and to honor Him, then there will be no imbalance, but instead fulfillment, peace, and joy. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” Colossians 3:22-23. The Wall of Priorities will add peace, strength and permanence to the Building of Real Relationships.
TO BE CONTINUED...
Please watch out for part 3 of this series on Building Real Relationships:
- WALL #4 CALLED “AGAPE” (RELATIONAL MANDATE)
- THE ROOF CALLED “BLESSING” (RELATIONAL SUCCESS)
There is a glaring lack of authenticity in the relationships that we see around us, among us, and in us. Image has transcended identity. The motto on the North Carolina Flag is, “Esse Quam Videri,” which means, “To be, rather than to seem [to be].” Relationships are all too often not what they seem to be. What seems to be is often only an illusion, and often a very elaborate one at that.
“Real” is defined in a number of ways. It can be defined as, “not artificial, fraudulent or illusory: Genuine, existent, authentic.” Remember in the movie, “The Matrix” when Neo asks Morpheus if the chair his hand is on is “real”? Morpheus responds, “What is real? How do you define “real”? If it is just [your senses] then it is just electrical signals interpreted by your brain...You have been living in a dream world, Neo.” He then reveals images of what seems to be a ‘normal’ world. He changes the picture and shows him images of decay and devastation. Morpheus then announces, “This is the world as it exists today...Welcome to the desert of the real”!
Could it be that the life that God designed for us to enjoy is now just a tragic distortion of what was meant to be? Have we become so accustomed to the dream, that the wonderful reality of what should be is no longer mourned for? Was the title of the bestselling book by Thomas Harris “I’m OK - You’re OK” a hollow mantra? We have strayed so far from the Garden that we have forgotten what it is like to “walk with God.”
Have we murdered our relationship with our brother ‘Abel’ in our day-to-day lives because of pride and jealousy? Are we now unable to look at our spouse with the same adoring eyes that first gazed on the unique and beautiful creation that God joined together in Eden? Why have we settled for a mere mirage in our relationships with God and people, instead of cultivating relationships that are truly rich, and real? We do not need to settle in the parched “desert of the real.”
Even the Word of God speaks of relationship, in the tri-unity of the Godhead, between God and His creation, and also between men and mankind. God is not interested in building monuments, except for those found in the trophies of His grace… His children (John 1:12). Jesus said that the world has the right to judge whether He came in the flesh through evidence of our unity (John 17:20-21).
While the American holiday of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other holidays are upon us, this is not a ‘seasonal message’ but rather an every-day message. People will be gathering around the table with family and friends, and many humorous as well as tragic films are made of such gatherings because of the discussions and events that take place. If we do not address the interpersonal relationships we have, we are destined to sacrifice that which is most important in God’s economy: each other!
THE DIVINE BLUEPRINT FOR RELATIONSHIPS
It is not surprising that God would tolerate a relationship with His creation. It is surprising that He desires a relationship with us and so He designed us, in His image, to enjoy a personal relationship with Him! Are relationships all the same? Obviously not. There are different relationships with couples, spouses, family members, friends, social groups, etc. While we are created in the image of God - because of sin - that image is marred. Because of this, all relationships are ruptured and are in desperate need of reconciliation. There are, though, some principles that apply to all relationships.
If the noun “building” is used as a picture of healthy and real relationships, then the verb “building” of that Building is critical to it being a safe and long-standing structure. The foundation, the walls, and the roof are all essential to it completion. The wonderful metaphor seen in an Amish barn-raising is a beautiful picture of how relationships are built. It is only as a community of two or more come together that the ‘building of a building’ can take place in such a dramatic way. (The 1985 film Witness (R) starring Harrison Ford and Kelly McGillis is a dramatic example of this).
It is assumed that the owner of the new barn has laid the foundation, and it is after the walls are raised, in cooperation of those involved, that the roof can be supported. It is then that it is assumed that the owner is committed to work on completing the project.
"9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building.
10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ."
THE FOUNDATION: “JESUS” (RELATIONAL FAITH)
This foundation is not found in a denomination, a sect, a statement of faith, nor a group of rituals. It is found in a Person. Whatever you think or know about the Billy Graham family, one thing that is dominant in their ministry is that the word “Jesus” comes from their mouths, perhaps as much as the word “God.” A correct relationship with God cannot be had your (our) way. It can only be enjoyed God’s way (1 Corinthians 2:12-14).
It is not enough to acknowledge the existence of God. We are told in Romans 1 that the existence of God is not something to be discovered, but something to be acknowledged, since the universe itself screams, “GOD!” to the extent that all mankind is, therefore, “without excuse.”
It is possible to believe in the existence and life of Jesus, but until someone places their faith in the person of Jesus as the One who became sin for them, paying infinitely for the punishment that they deserve and are unable to pay for, and that He rose from the dead to prove that the payment was sufficient, they are “condemned already” (John 3:16-18).
It is not that “God has a wonderful plan for your life,” and that if you just plug in Jesus, then all will be sweet, you will find Mr./Mrs. Right, your family will ‘get it together,’ you will get an ‘A’ in physics, your job will work out, and your lost dog will come home! It is that, only by knowing the Originator of intimate and infinite relationships that we can be equipped to enjoy them as they were designed to be.
It is not the existence and the example of Jesus that is in question. It is the identity of Jesus that is the issue. C. S. Lewis described it well when he said that Jesus was either a liar, who intentionally deceived people, and therefore evil itself, or a lunatic, a man on the level of someone who says they are a poached egg, or the Lord of Heaven. The option of saying that He was a “good man” is not open to us. He, then, the creator of all things (John 1:1-3, 14), is the only Foundation for Real Relationships.
WALL #1: “FORGIVENESS” (RELATIONAL FREEDOM)
So much of the lack of forgiveness in our lives is due to the lack of understanding of what forgiveness is, and what forgiveness is not. How many relationships are strained because of a lack of forgiveness? Who in our lives are we disconnected from and have a barrier between them and us?
There are so many ruptured homes, wounded marriages, and hopeless and desperate lives because of the absence of Forgiveness. Have you heard of, or have you yourself said, or has someone said to you the statement, “I will forgive you, but I will never forget”? How long has it been since you have been freed of the burden of a wounded or broken relationship? We can be instantaneously unburdened of this load of anger and resentment.
There are those who would say that one is not required to offer forgiveness to a person unless that person deserves it. This is because of their view of what forgiveness is based on. If forgiveness is based on a person deserving it, then we as sinners would not be able to be forgiven by God, because we do not deserve it! To receive grace is “to receive something that is not earned or deserved.”
Here is the main issue: Forgiveness is not primarily for the forgiven, but for the forgiver. God has forgiven us in Christ His Son because it is His holy character that has been violated. The result to the offender for the act of rebellion is separation. Forgiveness is offered by the offended so that there is a way for reconciliation. Forgiveness is choosing not to keep score anymore.
It is not divine amnesia! It is not that God cannot remember our sin, it is that He chooses to not hold sin against our account. This is how the “I forgive, but I cannot forget” problem is solved. Or course we can remember when someone has offended us. It is that we “choose not to keep score anymore” that we can forgive them, just as God the Father, in Jesus the Son, has forgiven us!
When we forgive ‘Aunt Martha’ before going to the Thanksgiving table, we are no longer bound by anger, resentment, or self-righteousness. All this because, since we are forgiven in Christ, we can also choose to keep score no longer. So, since we don’t have to wait until someone deserves to be forgiven, we can forgive them immediately because we ourselves have received from the Lord the forgiveness that we do not deserve, either! Then our relationships can be restored, and we no longer are burdened with anger and resentment and we are free!
However, remember what Forgiveness is not. Forgiveness is not pretending we have not been hurt. Forgiveness is not saying our emotions or bodies are healed. Forgiveness is not having to trust someone that might still be out to harm us, because trust is earned. Our freedom was earned and was paid for by the blood of Jesus. We have been freely forgiven! Be free!
Please watch out for parts 2 and 3 of this series on Building Real Relationships:
- WALL #2: “GRACE & TRUTH” (RELATIONAL EXAMPLE)
- WALL #3: “PRIORITIES” (RELATIONAL BALANCE)
- WALL #4: “AGAPE” (RELATIONAL MANDATE)
- THE ROOF: “BLESSING” (RELATIONAL SUCCESS)
The views, information, and opinions expressed in this website are solely those of the individual contributors and do not necessarily represent those of TRINICY International.
Colleges & Universities
David M. Kowalke Jr.
Dr. Gabriel Ndhlovu
Immanuel Arthur Kwesi
Immanuel Kwesi Arthur
Juan Laureano Jr.
Onward Christian Soldiers!
Razak K. Dwomoh
The Building Of Real Relationships Series
The Christian Imperative