By David M. Kowalke, Jr. | @hongkongkowalke | TRINICY.org
Photo by Randy Fath
PART II: THE BUILDING REAL RELATIONSHIPS
WALL #2: GRACE & TRUTH (RELATIONAL EXAMPLE)
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:
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