Relationships in Rocky Times
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds,
so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12:2 (NRSV)
We find ourselves amid some challenging times for the relationships in our lives. It is nearly impossible to listen to the news these days without hearing arguments about vaccinations, masks, critical race theory, Afghanistan, or at least a dozen other topics. All this anger is putting a substantial strain on our relationships with one another. Maybe more than ever before in my lifetime, we are faced with deep-seated beliefs that tear at our relationships.
Some of that animosity has made its way into churches as well. It is easy to allow ourselves to forget that we are all called to gather around God’s table. It is easy to bring the arguments from outside, inside. It is easy to forget that Christ calls us to unity and instructs us to bear with one another. In John 15, Jesus tells the disciples that they are not part of this world: “If you were a product of the world order, then it would love you. But you are not a product of the world because I have taken you out of it, and it despises you for that very reason.” (John 15:19, The Voice) And in Romans 12:2, Paul admonishes the Roman church to fix their attention on God, not on their culture.
But, I don’t believe that we should sit silently by and watch our culture slide further and further from God. I think it is our duty, our calling, to stand up for what is right. Thomas Jefferson once said, “In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.” How we treat each other is not a matter of style. For me, it is a matter of principle.
And the principle is how we, as followers of Christ, deal with issues of power. And I believe (from the very core of my being) that we have a Biblical mandate to handle power in a certain way. And it is NOT how society usually wields power. Society uses power to manipulate and control. Influential people get away with all sorts of misdeeds precisely because they are powerful. The more money, or influence, a person has, the more likely they are to believe they are “above the law.”
And this is nothing new! Jesus addresses just this issue in Mark 10:42-45; Jesus got them together to settle things down. “You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around,” he said, “and when people get a little power how quickly it goes to their heads. It’s not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not to be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for many who are held hostage.” (The Message)
The issues of power and relationships are vital to our witness as followers of Jesus. They permeate our lives. Power and relationship are everywhere you look, at work, at home, in government, in the church, everywhere. As people of faith, we simply must understand and put into practice a decidedly Christian way of treating others. “This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” (John 13:35 – The Message)