We are continuing on with our sermon series: God is…I am. Today we will explore the fact that because God is a relational God created us to be relational creatures
If I could summarize what the Bible is about it would be this: What it means to be in a relationship with God and how our relationship with God empowers us to be in a relationship with others. The Old Testament is about Israel navigating their relationship with God and with one another. A third of the New Testament is about Paul helping the early church navigate difficult relationships within the church and how external pressures in their communities affected their relationships with God and with one another. The Gospels help us understand how God relates to us by how God as Jesus built relationships with others.
How we understand God is through relationships. God’s love is so big we have to understand God’s love by the relationships that exist within God’s own self. Namely as the three persons of the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And how through each person of the Trinity God relates to us. We understand God’s love as the God the Father – who out of love created the universe and humanity after God’s own image. Then we understand God as God relates to us in Jesus Christ; God became a human being in Jesus. In Jesus, we see how God relates to people by becoming a person himself. Next, we see who God is as the Holy Spirit who helps us understand all that Christ taught us and how God continues to be at work within us and around us today.
Since we are created in God’s image and God’s own self is relational, we too are relational beings. God created us to be relational. We see this in our passage from Genesis. When God created the first person God realized that the first human that God created should not be alone.
In Hebrew, the word “Adam” translates to humanity in general. So God saw that it was not right for the first human to be alone and needed a partner. This is when God created the woman, Eve, who together with Adam were to be equal partners in God’s creation. Some have interpreted this passage as women being subordinate to men as part of God’s original creation. It was not, until the fall, however, when the relationship between humanity and God was broken, that women became subordinate to men. God’s original intention was that men and women would be equal partners together.
Whether it’s romantic, familial or friendship, we were created to be in relationships with others – period. In our passage from Ecclesiastes we are reminded that we were never meant to “go it alone.” For if “one falls one will lift up the other, but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help.”
Just as we were created to be in a relationship with others we were also created to be in a relationship with God. Our relationship with Jesus Christ strengthens our relationship with others. This is why it says in Ecclesiastes: “Though one might prevail against another two will withstand one. A threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Our passage from Ecclesiastes begins with talking about the importance that two is better than one, but then ends with three is better than two. Who is that third person? It’s Jesus. And through our relationship with Christ our relationships with others are strengthened.
I really love this quote by the Christian authors and pscyhologists, Henry Cloud and John Townsend:
“Many of us live in two worlds when it comes to relationships. In one world we have friendly conversations in which we avoid all disagreements; in the other we have major conflict-type conversations that tear everybody and everything up. In the first world we have connection without truth, and in the second we have truth without connection.
God did not design us to live in these two worlds, having these two types of relationships. He wants us to live in the one world, where he lives and where truth and love coexist as allies, not adversaries. Our connections are best when they are truthful, and our truth is best when we are connected.
The Bible calls this truth in love: ‘Speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ’ (Eph. 4:15). Conversations work best when people both care for each other and tell the truth to each other. Good things happen. People get along, resolve issues, and still maintain the connection they need.”
“Our connections are best when they are truthful, and our truth is best when we are connected.” How do we know when our connections are truthful? What is truth? The answer is in what we say at the end of every worship service: “We are a Christ-centered community of acceptance.” We must first be a Christ-centered community before we can be a community of acceptance. We look to God’s word to figure out if we are indeed being a people who are centered on Christ.
There are a lot of voices in our world who declare what it means to be Christ-centered. Social media has only made this more complicated, adding even more voices to our world. We need to ask ourselves: Do those voices match how Jesus talked with others? Are those voices echoing what Jesus actually said and did? And are we only allowing ourselves to hear the voices with whom we agree and who make us feel good? We have to go back to scripture to see if what others say are indeed centered on Christ.
We have to go back to scripture to see if what we believe, say and do are centered on Jesus Christ. When we are centered in Christ, and only when we are centered in Christ, are our “connections truthful.”
When we are in scripture we aren’t just reading God’s word, but we are also listening to God’s voice. When we are reading our Bibles, we are opening our ears to what Jesus wants us to know about the areas of our lives where we think we are connected to the truth of Jesus Christ, but we actually aren’t.
The thing is, listening is hard. It’s hard to listen to God and it’s hard to listen to one another. We live in an age where many tend to value “I” statements such as: This is what “I” think, “I” feel this way, this is how “I” have been taught to read the Bible more than the value of listening to others. Are we willing to listen to the “I” statements of others? And are listening to what God says about himself?
I recently heard a fellow pastor share: “When people want to come talk to me about the Bible they come with with preconceived notions of the Bible that they aren’t willing to let go of.” What she meant by this is that when people want to “talk” about the Bible they want her to agree with what they already believe about the Bible. They aren’t willing to engage in dialogue where both people have the chance to speak. Where both people are actually willing to listen to one another.
This is where we need the Holy Spirit. God as Holy Spirit helps us listen to one another even when we don’t want to. But we can’t rely on God’s help if we ourselves aren’t listening to how God wants to help us.
Beautiful things can happen when we are centered on the truth of Jesus Christ through God’s word. We become better listeners. We are better able to know the truth of Jesus Christ who connects us all.
At the last royal wedding, Archbishop Michael Curry in his homily described what the world could look like if we truly lived out of the love of Jesus Christ:
“Think and imagine, well, think and imagine a world where love is the way. Imagine our homes and families when love is the way. Imagine neighborhoods and communities where love is the way. Imagine governments and nations where love is the way. Imagine business and commerce when love is the way. Imagine this tired old world when love is the way, unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive. When love is the way, then no child will go to bed hungry in this world ever again. When love is the way, we will let justice roll down like a mighty stream and righteousness like an ever-flowing brook. When love is the way, poverty will become history. When love is the way, the earth will be a sanctuary. When love is the way, we will lay down our swords and shields down, down by the riverside to study war no more. When love is the way, there’s plenty good room, plenty good room, for all of God’s children. Because when love is the way, we actually treat each other, well, like we are actually family. When love is the way, we know that God is the source of us all and we are brothers and sisters, children of God.”
When we are centered on our relationship with Christ, all of our relationships are strengthened. When we are centered on the love of Jesus Christ, we are better able to love one another even in the midst of conflict and hurt because we become better listeners. When we know the love and truth of Jesus Christ we see ourselves and others as God sees us all. His beloved creation born out of God’s boundless love. Created for relationship with God that empowers us to be in healthy relationships with one another.
That’s who we are because that’s who God is.