Sunday, February 10, 2019

Relationship, pt. 1

Most often happiness tops the list of what people want.  Most say happiness is the result of strong relationships.  Without strong relationships, people say they aren't happy, and they want to be happy more than anything.  Even if people want happiness and require strong relationships to be happy, should happiness and strong relationships be the goal for people?

Sometimes people are not happy, because they don't have strong relationships.  They wanted a strong relationship more than anything else, it never happened, so now they're not happy.  Is it possible that strong relationships were the wrong goal?

Knowing the power of the word "relationship," taking into consideration what people want, Vox, a left wing political blog or news site, reported the following trend in evangelicalism:
Recent attempts by churches to be more attractive to secular populations have led cool churches to emphasize “relationship” over “religion.” This “seeker sensitive” approach to church has its roots in the megachurch movement of the 1980s and ’90s — churches like Saddleback and Willow Creek — that sought to make church more attractive to nonbelievers by playing songs that weren’t hymns, offering preaching that was relevant to daily life, and designing churches that didn’t look particularly religious, including no crosses or stained-glass windows, no pews, and pastors wearing street clothes instead of collars. 
“The Jesus message is not one of religion but of relationship,” Rich Wilkerson Jr., pastor of Miami’s Vous Church and the officiant at Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s wedding, wrote in his book Friend of Sinners
Carl Lentz, a Hillsong pastor and close friend of Justin Bieber, said, “We don’t use the word ‘religion,’ because it’s hard to get people excited about religion. … Religion has no power. But a relationship with God is a superpower.” 
This tonal shift within evangelicalism away from the dour restrictions associated with religion and toward the freedom and dynamism of a relationship has been ushered in by this new breed of Instagram-friendly, celebrity-surrounded pastors. But with the spread of Hillsong in America — it now has campuses in New York, New Jersey, Boston, Connecticut, Los Angeles, Orange Country, and San Francisco — we’re starting to see more and more figures like Lentz in paparazzi photos or Instagram posts with celebrities like Bieber. Some of these pastors are themselves the focus of buzz and reality TV, such as Wilkerson’s short-lived Oxygen series Rich in Faith.
These hipster evangelicals are so transparent in their attractionalism that even Vox gets it -- it's that obvious.  Is Vox right?  Yes.

Even though the word "relationship" is not in the English Bible, the concept of "relationship" is.  Relationship itself is important, but it also can be pirated by professing churches or religious groups like those above that know what people want.  They pander to people, taking advantage of the hunger for relationship.  It is a kind of bait and switch, because they are offering is relationship, but it isn't the relationship of God that God reveals in His Word.  It is a placebo relationship that inoculates its victims against the real thing.

God created us for relationship, but not just any relationship.  The temptation of relationship sends people away from what God wants, which is defined by scripture.  Because people are duped by proposals of relationship, they would do well to know what the Bible does say about it.

The world says that relationship is based upon mutual attraction.  There are qualities that each person likes about the other.  The relationship is not about what each thinks or feels is best for the other, but based upon support no matter what each one chooses to do.

Earlier this year, I preached a short series on Trinity at our church, and then I wrote one post in July, entitled, Who Is God? Trinity the Identity of God.  I didn't use the word "relationship" in the post, but I wrote that God is most identified as Father and then Son, and to be Father and Son, an eternal relationship existed between them.  I didn't write this in that post, but if I had turned it into a series, I would have, and, that is, relationship was the basis of God's creation.  God said, "let us make man in our image" (Gen 1:26).  The members of the Trinity, the Godhead, agreed to create mankind.  Before God created mankind, the Father was already loving the Son, as seen in John 17:24 and 1 John 4:8-9:
Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. 
He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.  In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.
In that same post, I said:
God is love is accompanied by God sending His Son into the world, so love is also associated with the Son.  God was already loving the Son and then He manifested His love toward us through His Son, giving life to us through the Son.  The Father gave His glory to the Son, loving Him before the foundation of the world.
As one works his way through scripture, he will see that the relationship the Father has with the Son is one He also wants with men, Adam being a sort of second son to Him.  Even as the Father and Son have an eternal relationship, they created man in their image, as expressed by plural pronouns in Genesis 1:26, "us" and "our."  That relationship was ruined by sin, but can be returned through the first Adam, the Lord Jesus, so that men can become sons again. The relationship between the Father and the Son can't, so won't, be ruined by sin, what ruins relationships.

The relationship of the Father to the Son and the Son to the Father is the model for relationship with God and relationship between people.  God, the Author of relationship, lays out His requirements for relationship in the first and second tables of the law, also represented by the commands, love God and love your neighbor.  These are God's rules for a right relationship, rules that people can only keep by the grace of God.

People want happiness and think relationship will bring it.  Since relationship originated with God, we need to look to Him in His Word to find out what relationship is supposed to be.  Without a right understanding, it can be a powerful tool in the hands of the wrong people.