I have been thinking about someone I know with (what looks like) a relational issue with a friend and a sibling in God’s family. The two are not talking. They seem to be avoiding each other, and situations where they are likely to meet the other person. (And, of course, it might not be “them”. It might just be one of them.)
It seems like a natural solution. Suppose someone has an argument with a friend. Perhaps even a quite heated argument. It is easy to want to crete space, to avoid the other person. One does not have to deal with painful circumstances, the mess, or the possibility that one is wrong. Either in one’s position in the disagreement, or in one’s understanding of the other person’s position.
However, among the followers of Jesus, relationships are the building blocks of the kingdom. We need to take very seriously our relationship with God. We need to take very seriously our relationship with our family, with God’s family, with friends. And we need to take very seriously our relationship with those not in God’s family.
I will mention three things that I hope show how serious and vital relationships in God’s view of things.
First, Jesus prayed that the father would his family as united as he and the Father are united. Unity doesn’t just make life easier. Jesus says unity demonstrates that God sent Jesus into the world. Unity demonstrates that God loves the disciples. Personal arguments that affect interaction among God’s children, bad-mouthing other groups of Christians or other local families of God, all communicate a lack of unity. And disunity says God did not send Jesus. Disunity says the father does not love his children. Unity is vital, pivotal, and strategic.
Second, scripture says to make every effort to remain a connected, whole family. Without a real, demonstrated connection, God’s family demonstrates a pack of lies. The is only one body. “Body” being a metaphor for God’s family. Many different parts joined together, functioning harmoniously as a whole. It is the person by person distinctions that enable the whole to complete its purpose, God’s purpose. It is the distinctions we need to celebrate. And it the distinctions we usually use to bring separation.
[If we consider God’s universal family, all the different groups, we should be able to recognize that groups organize and derive their identity from their distinctive traits. Many assume that embracing unity means they have to suppress, or not prioritize, the things that distinguish them, which then robs or demeans their identity. We need to learn to affirm the common areas that define the whole family, and celebrate those differences. It is the differences which allow each body, and the universal body, to bring glory to God.]
There is not just one “singularity.” Each member of God’s family is:
- In the same body
- Gets life by the same spirit
- Expects the same future
- Follows the same Lord
- Has the same type of relationship
- Declares the same allegiance
- Are created and empowered by the same Father.
Third, God does not call us to promote our distinctions. God calls us to promote Christ. God calls us to live in love. If our distinctions hinder the gospel, or the growth of any of God’s children anywhere, anytime, we are not walking in love. God speaks to us all the time. God’s strategy in each of our lives is unique, because we are unique. We all wind up at the same destination. We may not necessarily be at the same place on the journey. So, sharing where you are on your journey, may be helpful and encourage others. Insisting others abandon their place, their walk, and their path, may not. It may even short-circuit God’s work in them. Love demands we build into others. Maturity gives wisdom, and discernment in how best to build.