The hard work of relationships!

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PJ’s Daily Devotional for Thursday, January 26, 2017.

Today’s Bible Reading is Galatians 3 (If the hyperlink is not available go to: https://www.esv.org/Galatians+3/).


“Please be direct with me.  Be kind and gentle to me please, but also be direct and honest.  I can’t read your mind or pick up on your subtleties or hints. I need you to just tell me how you are feeling and what you want or don’t want if we are to have a healthy relationship; that is my request and my need.  My commitment is to listen well to what you say and how you say it; to empathize with you, and try to understand your needs.”

Those are honest words spoken by a Christian trying to do better and help his marriage do better.  It is my hope that those could be words coming out of the mouth of every Christian husband to their wives; these are words of hope and intimacy to a Christian wife.  So many men think they are providing for their wives and families by working hard for the financial provision, when what the family is starving for is more of his presence, peace, and power to bring acceptance, affection, and affirmation to the family, starting with his wife.

But here is a hard truth: a man cannot do any better in his relationship with his wife than he does with his brothers and sisters in Church.

All Christian relationships should be different because we are one in Christ and mutually submitted to one another (Ephesians 5:1-21).   That is not just a teaching for marriage; it is a teaching for the brethren (brothers and sisters in the Lord).  Paul exclaims the powerful truths of chapter 3 with this kingdom reality, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:28, 29).

There are 3 levels of human relationship:

  1. Basic human relationship as fellow image bearers of God (Genesis 1:27) who are living under the effects of the fall in a cursed world (Genesis 3), but these relationships still demand that we give one another dignity and respect regardless of our differences and depravity. This is how you treat the Denny’s waitress: you say please and thank you, and you tip generously for their hard work to serve you.
  2. Redeemed image bearers who are now brothers and sisters in the Church, adopted by Jesus Christ, covered in His blood, and fellow heirs according to the promise. It is our birthright to have all things in common, to mutually submit to one another, and to not treat one another according to the effects of the fall.  We look past the differences to see a Christ-exalting, Cross-bearing, Spirit-filled brother or sister.
  3. Covenanted Christian husband and wife who are now the image of Christ’s relationship with the Church. Christian marriage is intended more so for your holiness than your happiness because in God’s economy your marriage is about His visible witness on the earth. How you relate, how you do life together, everything about your relationship is intended for God’s glory on the earth, in and through you!

EVERY single one of your relationships fits in one of these categories.  You need to take a moment this morning and figure out how you should be treating the people in your life according to these three categories of human relationships.

If you are like me, you are thinking of a particularly unlovable person and you are looking for an exception so you don’t have to love him or her; right?  Let me deal with one perceived exception for each category:

  1. What if someone is so far from God, so deprave, so corrupt, that they are unlovable? Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount to “love your enemy” (Matthew 5:44).  Jesus gives us no exceptions to love!  Look at His example on the Cross.
  2. What if a church brother or sister sins against me and is unwilling to get right through forgiveness and repentance as marked out in Matthew 18? Here is the radical truth, if someone in category 2 does not live up to their part, after a thorough process of seeking reconciliation, in the worst case scenario we are to start treating them like they are in category 1, which means we are to love them for the reason of winning of them to Christ. We will not have the same level of relationship as the brethren are called to have, but we are to love them.
  3. What if my spouse does something that allows for divorce according to the Bible’s teaching on marriage? First off, seek reconciliation and restoration if at all possible, because God hates divorce.  But if that is not possible, then at a minimum your spouse either falls into category 1 or 2 and you are still called to love them.

This is all very difficult; I agree!  That is why my final word is Paul’s from Galatians 3:3, “Are you so foolish?  Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”

The Christian life and our unconditional call to love, forgive, and reconcile is only possible through the power, presence, and peace of the Holy Spirit.  You can’t do this!  You simply can’t do relationships in your own power; you need God!



 

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