Sunday, January 29, 2006

Relationships in the Jesus Community

In the recent posting, "They'll Know We Are Christians By Our _______" we looked at the first of the seven letters to the churches found in Revelation, to the church at Ephesus.

There are certainly a number of reasons why we as individuals and as churches can forsake the love we had at first. Sin, in some form or another is certainly at the root of all such departure. To forsake that first love implied blame on the church that did it. We all need to be acutely aware of our tendency to wander from God. As the hymnist wrote: "Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love." Relationships take work. They involve sacrifice in the form of priority, time and self-denial, though all of this should be done out of love. Otherwise we seem to "naturally" drift apart.

The primary relationship, as Jesus teaches us in "the Jesus Creed" is with God. The first and greatest commandment is to love God with all of our being and activity. Then the second is like it: loving our neighbor as ourselves. This indicates that these commandments are interrelated. One cannot truly be practiced without practicing the other. John the apostle makes that clear in his first letter. The fact that God first loved us is primary in us loving God and others as John also declares.

As to the importance of maintaining good relationships with God and others, what are we to do? These answers may seem trite, but surely they are true. We need to spend time with those we are in relationship with. We need to work at our friendships with such. We need to forgive and ask for forgiveness. We need to guard such relationships from anything that could harm them.

If our love for God is growing cold, our love for our neighbor will grow just as cold. And God won't let us off the hook if we let our love grow cold for each other. If we are increasing in our love for God, realizing more and more the depth of his love for us, then we will be growing in our love for each other, and for our neighbor. But Scripture is plain that we'll need to work at both. We must not deceive ourselves into thinking that if we're doing one well, then we automatically are doing the other well. Let's make this pursuit of a love relationship to God and to others our goal.

Lord, help us to make relationships primary. First our relationship with you. Then out from that our relationships with our brothers and sisters in you. And our relationships to our neighbors in our community and around the world. Let our love as your loved ones be shared, and may many more come to share in the same love. Let us take relationships as seriously as you do. Thank you that your pursuit of relationship with us is unrelenting and perfect. Amen.

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