16 January 2014
As I think about my relationships with family and friends, I am amazed at the fragility and intricacy of each relationship. It is so easy for a relationship to turn sour, for trust to be broken and hearts to shatter. Some relationships seem to have drifted into the distance with time, maybe others withered away with lack of care.
Relationships with people are however so central to my meaning as a person. Without my wife and family, my identity would be lost. Without someone to share my joy and success, it would be empty. Despite the fact that I am told my identity is in Christ, I also believe that Christ wanted me to experience my identity in Him through my relationships with people.
The first and greatest command in the bible is to “love”. To love my God with all my heart, mind, strength and spirit. And the second is to love my neighbor as myself.
In Matthew 5, Jesus taught about anger, lust, divorce, promises, retaliation and loving our enemies.
In anger, he told us to forgive and to also reconcile as quickly as possible – he didn’t want any bad feelings simmer – in his wisdom he knew better than to let the sun go down while we were still angry. So much weight is added to hurt when we let it simmer in relationships. Jesus knew reconciliation didn’t start by waiting for the other to apologize, it started with us and because it started with us, we had control and responsibility whether to hold on to it or to release it. How many times have I waited for the other to apologize and kept a cancerous grudge while waiting?
Jesus told us that lust starts with the eye and the heart, and not just the act itself. He knew that cheating didn’t start because the other person wasn’t good enough, it started in the secret heart. How easy it is though for me to justify actions of lust by blaming it on something or someone else.
Today i know divorce rates are higher than ever in history. Divorce has shattered families and affects generations to come. The ease and permissibility of it has made marriage almost meaningless. Jesus only allowed the husband to divorce his wife on one ground – sexual immorality. But notice how it was “allowed” rather than expected. As we see in the book of Hosea and how Jesus described us the church and him – we see that marriage in fact, goes even beyond the condition that the other is faithful, it only requires at least one to be faithful.
Jesus taught us not to retaliate but to love our enemies and pray for them. He said, if I only love those who love me, it does no good. As if to say, love doesn’t depend on how the other person is treating you. Love depends on me. That is in fact revolutionary even today. How many relationships today start and end because the other was thinking “what can he/she do for me?” or “he/she is no longer this or that, or has done this or that”. Love, as fluffy and warm as i take it to be, is not a feeling, or necessarily a response to something or someone else. Love is a choice that doesn’t depend on what someone else did or didn’t do for me. That’s what Jesus modeled. And it basically sums up for me, all of the above responses to anger, lust, divorce and promises.
Jesus, thank you for modeling and teaching me what love really looks like. That it depends not on how i feel or how i would benefit, but on the choices i make today and knowing that it will define who i am. Create in me Lord, not just a clean heart, but a heart to love.