For the past two weeks we have been looking at who we are as a church. The goal of this Ethos series is not to just be informational, not just to feed a bunch of answers. The goal is to process together who we are–to open up the topics, to examine what is happening in and around the topics, to focus on Scripture, to seek understanding and application, to start processing, to acknowledge that the processing won’t be done maybe ever, and in that processing, to form a deeper understanding of who we are.
We started off this series by dialoguing about why we plant. We walked around the picture of a relational dinner. We built on Paul’s picture of the body and the Body of Christ. And the reason we plant is not to perpetuate or propagate and entity or organization. It is not to elevate a leader or project a leader. The goal is to nurture and multiply bodies–multiply the us.
Jesus looked into the eyes of His disciples before His ascension and said,
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
As disciples of Jesus, we are commissioned.
Paul spoke to people that were struggling with the tension between relationship with Jesus leading to right relationship with God and what to do or to be as a follower of Jesus:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:8-10)
As disciples of Jesus, we were created with a purpose.
Paul saw this all coming together as he saw the church community as a living, healthy body:
For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. (Romans 12:4-5)
Why do we multiply? To live these things out.
Last week we dialogued about what we believe. It was so far from being a spreadsheet of belief(s). Instead, we walked deep into the relationships between knowing, believing, and faith. We talked through the powerful narrative of Jesus healing a son–the dad knew that something was different about Jesus, that Jesus had helped other people, and that he needed help. And in his dialogue with Jesus, he opens the door so we can see the complexity of belief:
“It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:22-24)
Last week we walked around the complexity of belief. We did bring to the surface the beliefs in Jesus, scripture, and community. We also brought the Apostles’ Creed to the table:
The Apostles’ Creed
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
While declarations of belief are so important to the process of belief, ownership, responsibility, and process is where belief can move from an idea or ideal to reality. Welcome to the process!
And now today we are going to be dialoguing about real relationship. Who are we as a church? We value real relationships.
Over and over again in this series we will be bringing this to the screen:
Corner Church Ethos:
- Follow Jesus
- Focus on Scripture
- Value everyone's story
- Build real relationships
- Seek Spiritual reality
- Encourage everyone to take personal ownership of faith, church and community
- See that we are better together
- And do this again and again so that people can have an opportunity to walk to church
This is not a declaration of perfection or of never missing it, and we’re not assuming all that it takes is a declaration. We value real relationship. This walks us right into our first conversation today–what is a real relationship?
Think about some of the steps of relationship formation. Here is a list of eleven:
- I have never seen that person before
- I recognize that person
- I keep seeing that person
- I talked to that person
- I know their name
- They know my name
- We plan to interact
- We have some shared experiences
- There is a knowing of some stories and experiences from past
- There is a deeper understanding of personality and character
- We offer empathy, care, help, selflessness
Real relationship has thousands, or really an infinite number of steps. And in the path of real relationship there are some potential bumps and roadblocks, like busyness, conflict, estrangement, selfishness, fear, manipulation, misunderstanding, unresolved wounds, and insecurity. I could go on and on and on. These things and just normal life things all make relationship rarely linear. It can have 5 steps forward, 3 back and 9 forward again. It can stop, start, slow, accelerate, pause…
But all of this again begs for the answer–what is real relationship? I hope you feel the intentionality in this question. I didn't say “real fun relationship” or “real enjoyable relationship” or even “healthy or growing relationship.”
What is a real relationship?
Okay, so we have kind of defined what real relationship is. But what are some things that are not part of a real relationship? Some things that we might think are real but are not actually connectors? Things like knowing all the facts about someone but not actually spending time with them. These can be different for everyone. But a lot of these things can lead to loneliness.
Why is loneliness prominent in our world?
As we have seen at over the past two weeks, Paul loves to talk about the Body of Christ. Each part is important. Diversity is an essential ingredient. No one part can make up a healthy body. In Romans 12 and in 1 Corinthans 12 Paul builds this picture–and then it is immediately follows it by focusing on love.
In Romans 12, Paul talks about the picture of the body and its clear picture of how the church is to be and operate, and then says:
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:9-21)
In 1 Corinthians 12, he is overly clear on the symbiotic and synergistic relationship that we need in order to be complete, and then he says:
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. (1 Corinthians 13:1-8)
Why do you think Paul follows up his drawings of the Body of Christ with focused conversation on love?
Now I am going to yank the wheel out of your hand and steer us to another side of the conversation: insecurity.
There are so many verses that can build our confidence:
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. (Psalm 139:14)
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23:1-6)
These verses are good. Relationship is good. Being loved is good. Loving others is good. This is all good. But insecurity still exists.
Insecurity can impact many things: doing or not doing, saying or not saying, going or not going, reaching out or not reaching out.
We have talked about what real relationship is. We have talked about the prominence of loneliness. We have talked about the connection of Body of Christ and love. And now:
How do insecurities impact real relationships?
In the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, in the Bible), Jesus is repeatedly calling for you and me (us) to love others:
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31)
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.” (John 15:1-17)
Jesus even goes so far to push us to love those who don’t love us:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:38-48)
I am going to make a blanket statement, and then I am going to ask you to go to the next level. The blanket statement: this love that Jesus calls us to will not happen by being passive, dismissive and/or unengaged. This love that Jesus is calling us to comes out of intentionality.
Many people can love someone who does something good for them. But intentional love can lead us to care for people who are outside–for example, the parable of the good Samaritan in Luke 10, which Jesus presents as being all about being neighborly to those who might be completely outside the groups we find ourselves in.
Love that Jesus calls us to won’t just happen. It is chosen. It is worked out. It is given effort. It is unending. It will not just happen by accident.
Embrace that or not. Maybe it can happen without you even trying because you are just that nice. But that is not me. So if it just doesn’t happen:
What does it take to live out the love Jesus calls us to?
What obstacles tend to trip you up in living out the love Jesus calls us to have?
We value real relationship. Cool. Go back to the picture of dinner we used two weeks ago and to the picture of the Body of Christ we keep coming to in this series. Great. We get it. It’s important. But what it will involve is intentionality and effort–and a degree of intentionality and effort that will overcome the realities of insecurity.
This intentionality that is needed to build real relationships in community is not something that one or even a few can carry on their own. To live this out, to live out the calling to love as Jesus loved, we all need to step up to the table of intentionality. This walks us to our final question:
How does your intentionality fit into being a church that values real relationships?
Take It Deeper Questions
- Read Matthew 5:38-48
- Define relationship, connection, loneliness and insecurity.
- What does it take to have an unhealthy relationship?
- What does it take to have a healthy relationship?
- How do Jesus’ instructions in Matthew (and in other contexts) speak to intentionally building healthy relationships?
- What is a common barrier for you in building healthy relationships?
- What is a common key for you to build healthy relationships?
- What does intentionality mean to you this week as you hope to have healthy relationships?
Bible Reading Plan
- Judges 13
- Judges 14
- Judges 15
- Judges 16