I live in a small rural community where people often burn brush, trash, and other debris that they do not want to take the time to dispose of. It is common in the summer and fall to drive past houses where dark clouds of smoke are billowing from the back...
My friend, Charlie, is visually impaired. Due to this, people often overlook and ignore him. But all human beings were made for connection with other human beings. Therefore, this isolation causes him to contemplate, “Why do many people find it so hard to befriend me?” In God’s natural order, reflecting the trinity, men could dwell among one another in peace and harmony. But now, because of the presence of sin, men dwell among one another in conflict and disharmony. Through his perfect life, death, and resurrection, however, Jesus redeems our relationships and restores them to their original state.
God Created Us for Dynamic Relationships
Before the conception of time, all three persons of the triune God–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit–dwelled in perfect harmony. In Jesus the King, Timothy Keller elaborates on their sublime, dynamic existence:
No person in the Trinity insists that the others revolve around him; rather each of them voluntarily circles and orbits around the others. (9)
In other words, a self-centered existence is stationary, whereas an others-centered existence is dynamic since this existence requires voluntary movement around others. In this view of the trinity, we see how we are supposed to act.
We see another picture of right relationships with Adam and Eve. In Genesis 2, the Lord God said:
“It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” (Genesis 2:18)
Adam was not meant to be alone–he was made for community. When God gave Eve to Adam, God declared the goodness of community. Made to reflect the dynamic relationship seen in the Trinity, Adam and Eve centered their lives on each other and on God. They resided in right relationship, and they had good fellowship with their Creator.
Human Rebellion Distorted Relationships
This right relationship was ruined when Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden tree. With this act they chose to center their existence on themselves rather than on God or each other. This choice broke their horizontal relationships (relationships with others) and their vertical relationship (relationship with God).
Due to the fall, humanity now has a depraved heart and mind. Our self-interest is the center around which our endeavors, desires, words, thoughts, and actions spiral. We all make the same choice Adam and Eve did: We turn our worship away from God toward ourselves.
Relationships are disoriented by this perverted, self-centered direction. Now man either deifies or demonizes other men. He deifies by lifting others to the place of God. He demonizes by lowering them to the place of the beasts. Our friendships and enmities are built on false presumptions of what we might receive from the relationship. We believe we will find wholeness from the gained riches, influence, status, or the relationship itself.
Jesus Redeems Relationships
Consider Jesus’s humility. He was enthroned in perfect majesty and praise, and he was immersed in perfect communion with the Father and the Holy Spirit. But he did not consider his own divinity a thing to be grasped. He held it out to the Father with an open hand. He took on flesh and entered into the messiness of the fall and its consequences upon human life.
Unlike us, Jesus did not start a relationship with his people for what he might get from them. He came to give everything he had to us. His hometown rejected him (Luke 4:28-30). The religious elite scorned and hated him, calling him “[a] glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” (Matthew 11:19). His disciples fled in fear when he was arrested (Mark 14:50). The Jews had an insurrectionist released instead of Jesus (John 18:38-40). Roman soldiers mocked his claim to kingship. They clothed him with a crown of thorns and a purple robe (John 19:2). They scoffed, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him (John 19:3).
And on the cross, nails pierced his hands as the wrath of his heavenly Father pierced his soul. After being sacrificed by us for our sake, Jesus demonstrated his full love as he rose victoriously from the dead to provide us with the offer of salvation. He paid the ransom in full, reconciling us to the Father.
With this, Jesus not only provided us with an example of how to put God and others first, but he also removed our fallen hearts and replaced them with a new heart that could see relationships the way he intended for them to be: dynamic.
Christ, the Center of Our Relationships
Through the Holy Spirit’s work, we too can think and act toward one another in a selfless and humble manner. This mindset is ours in our union to Christ (Philippians 2:5). We can model Jesus who carried his own cross and died for his enemies, whom he considered as friends.
As we begin to apply the gospel to our broken relationships, we will gradually find healing. When we are sinned against, we remember how our Lord could have condemned us under the law, but chose to redeem us through his blood and make us his bride. When we sin against others, we repent, knowing that Christ died for our redemption. Or, when others reject us and mistreat us, like some do to my friend Charlie, we reflect on the painful rejection Jesus endured by those around him.
We must remember that we are made to reflect the Trinity: We revolve not around ourselves, but around God and the lives of others.
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