PJ’s Daily Devotional for Saturday, February 4, 2017.
Relationships are the joy of our lives, but they are also hard work and have the potential of being the heartache of our lives! So much of what Paul writes about, through the lens of Jesus Christ and what He has done for us, is how Christians are to relate to God, to the world, and to one another.
Relationships are not just happy times, laughing so hard you cry times—going miniature golfing, watching a movie, listening to music, telling stories, laughing at jokes, or playing a game together. Sometimes relationships are filled with difficulty, conflict, and grief.
Even though I don’t like it, I recognize that conflict is a necessary part of relationships. One of the things I am learning as I get older is that to avoid conflict is to avoid the intimacy of being known by someone and to know someone. That is true in marriage (Ephesians 5:21-33), parenting (Ephesians 6:1-4), work relationships (Ephesians 6:5-9), community and church relationships (Ephesians 4:17-5:21). The question is not whether you will have conflict in your relationships, but will you have conflict in a healthy, biblical way? Can you love well when you disagree?
If you spend your life avoiding conflict, then you avoid the abundant opportunities for deeper love and meaningful intimacy (familiarity with another person; knowing the other person beyond a superficial level). Anytime you have more than one person in the room you have potential for conflict. Some people don’t even need another person in the room! Funny, but true! And let’s be self-aware of the times we live in: the lack of intimacy caused by social media, texting, and email has caused an increase in human connections with a simultaneous decrease in human intimacy: leading to even more conflict because we are communicating more while knowing each other less!
How does this impact how Christians—those who are called the light of God—are supposed to interact meaningfully and truthfully in the world?
Paul says in our Bible Reading lesson today, “For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light” (Ephesians 5:8-14a).
Darkness is a lack of light! Before Christ, you were darkness (the Bible teaches us that this means we were cut off from God—literally “dead in your transgressions” before Christ, but in Jesus we are the light of the world because we are now “alive with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4, 5). Thank you Jesus for loving us so much that He would take our death for us so that we can share in His life—we are lights to the world only because He is the light of the world!
What then is the difference between the light and darkness?
Light brings with it some substance, so the only way that light will not conflict with darkness is if it doesn’t bring substance with it. In other words, you don’t have to try to bring conflict, you bring it with you everywhere you go; if you are light! If you are light, conflict is unavoidable.
Have you ever been asleep and someone turns on the light in the room? It hurts! It wakes you up! The newly introduced substance of light woke you up from sleeping in darkness. Christians should be (are saved and called to be) a wakeup call in their relationships because they are light.
The call upon Christians is to not hide your lights. Jesus says, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).
The answer to the lack of relational intimacy in an over-connected world is to enter more fully in face to face relationships—let your light shine. Don’t give into the shallow, unknowing connections of our current culture—texting, emails, and social media can be tools, but they are not best practices for relationships.
Here are 3 ways we can do the hard work of being light and increase intimacy with people in real relationships:
- With face to face time to hear one another’s stories;
- With the sharing of our thoughts, ideas, and opinions without dividing when we don’t agree on issues;
- With the willingness to be disappointed and hurt if we are going to risk true relationships where we bring the substance of light—love and truth—to the people we are with.
Love is the riskiest of business, but the most rewarding; it’s worth the risk!
Are you living as a wakeup call in your relationships?