What About Relationships?
At a recent meeting with my mentor, the Rev Dr. Jane Hess, we talked about our churches and what is important to us. I mentioned community and relationships. We both agreed that both are important and that relationships are just another gift the church has to offer. One reason why relationships are such an important part of the Christian life is because God values relationships. That’s why we should value relationships as well.
God himself is relational
The Bible teaches that God has eternally existed as three persons in one divine being. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have been in relationship with each other forever. In Genesis 1:26, we read, “Then God said, ‘Let us make human beings in our image…’” Notice that God says “us”, not just “me”. This is why the Bible can say that “God is love.” God was able to express and experience love long before any created beings existed, because God encompasses three persons. Without going into detail on the Trinity, we need to understand that God is not a solitary being. The Father loves the Son and the Son, in turn, loves the Father. If God is relational, why should we think that we can go it alone?
The Old Testament shows that God values relationships
We can find many examples in the Old Testament scriptures that prove how important relationships are to God. For example, when God called Abraham (Genesis 12:2), he told him, “I will make you into a great nation.” God wasn’t content to establish a relationship with just one man. His purpose was to create a people – made up of families, clans, and tribes. God chose to bring redemption into the world through human relationships.
Another point of data from the Old Testament is the special care God shows toward people who are alone in the world. In particular, God’s heart is for widows and orphans. These are people who are the vulnerable and most subject to oppression and neglect, because they lack people who can provide a structure of support. So God told Israel in Isaiah 1:17, “Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.” And Psalm 68:6 says, “God sets the lonely in families…” Relationships are important to God!
The New Testament shows that God values relationships
To begin with, God created the church. While the people of Israel were all related to each other, the church encompasses people from every national and ethnic group. The church includes everyone who is united to Jesus by faith in him. As a result, we are all united to each other as well. The New Testament calls the church a family. It compares it to a living body. Metaphors like this emphasize our interconnectedness as Christ-followers.
In light of this, the New Testament contains hundreds of verses that instruct us on how to live in relationships. There are dozens of “one another” statements that direct how we should live: forgive one another, be patient with one another, encourage one another, pray for one another, love one another, and many more. It is quite clear, then, that no one can be obedient to God’s Word in isolation. God’s design is for us to connect in relationships. That’s why he told us how to do it.
God never called anyone to a purely individual salvation
The New Testament teaches that salvation places each of us into a web of relationships centered on Jesus Christ. Ephesians 2:1-10describes our salvation in individual terms. We were dead in our sins. God made us alive in Christ. He saved us by his grace, through our faith, for a life of good works. But the rest of Ephesians 2 describes the relational aspects of this same salvation.
Ephesians 2:19-22: So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit. When you’re connected to Jesus, you are also connected to his people. We are now members of a single family. We are citizens of the same kingdom. We are connected like stones in a house. In fact, as our lives are joined together, we become a temple. God lives among us by his Spirit – not individually, but in the unity of our relationships. Relationships are important to God. God’s people are completely out of step with his values and priorities when relationships are not important to us.
Yours in Christ,