By David M. Kowalke Jr. | @hongkongkowalke | TRINICY.org
Photo by Randy Fath
“Relationships” is (and “are”) everything! Of the stuff in the world, only people and the Word of God will last forever. If this is so, why is it that we invest in and spend so much time and effort on those things that are fleeting?
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.
1 Corinthians 3:9-11
"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!
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