Session 4: Relationships (July 2008)
Questions to think about
Q1) How many people have you spoken to/texted this week?
Q2) What is the main way people know you are a Christian?
Q3) Love is…
Welcome to the Word Live, thanks for coming. Tonight the subject is Relationships, and this is a big subject. Look at your answer to the first question, we all have links and contacts with a massive number of different people, and there are a whole variety of different ways we deal with the different people. The way we relate to our parents is different to the way we deal with our friends which is different to the way we deal with our youth leaders…. Our boyfriends/girlfriends…people in church… people in shops who sell us stuff…people who insult us in school… etc. The plan for this evening is to understand and explore how our relationship with God impacts the way we relate to, interact with, deal with the other 6 billion members of the human race. So we’d better get cracking.
Where better to start than right at the Beginning, we are going to have some selected highlights of Genesis 1:
Verse 3: “And God said “let there be light” and there was light, God saw that the light was good. Jumping to verse 10: “God called the dry ground ‘land’ and the gathered waters he called seas, And God saw that it was good. Verse 12 “The land produced vegetation: plants and trees, And God saw that it was good, Verse 17 God creates the Sun and moon “to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness, And God saw that it was good.
Can anyone spot a pattern forming here?
Verse 25 God made wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. Then God said “let us make man in our image” and in verse 31 “God saw all that he had made” and you guessed it.. “it was very good”.
Now when we’re reading the Bible, one handy tip is to look for words or phrases that repeat. Repeating patterns can be used to link together things you might not have expected to be linked, and also, when the pattern changes it usually makes an important point. In Genesis 1 we get this repeating rhythm of “it was good” 6 times. Now lets move on to Genesis 2 verse 18.
“The Lord God said “it is NOT GOOD for man to be alone, I will make a helper suitable for him”
Suddenly there is a change here, from everything being good, or ‘very good’ even, we are told it is not good for man to be alone. This is an important, foundational, point; a human being might be made perfectly in Gods image, but that is not enough, human beings were made to be in relationship with other humans (and God).
Now it needs to be made clear that this is BEFORE there is any sin, or rebellion against God. Nothing has gone wrong, nothing is broken, it’s just that good things on their own are not nearly as good things in relationship. A way of illustrating this is by thinking about an egg. Now there is nothing wrong with this egg, it’s not cracked, its not broken, it’s within it’s sell by date, it is a good egg. And I’ve also got some flour here, this is top notch absolutely lovely flour.does someone want to eat some? How is it? There is nothing wrong with the flour, but on it’s own it’s not particularly great. However, mix some flour, some egg, some butter, cook it, and you get a cake. The flour, the egg and the butter were not so great on their own, but TOGETHER they make a cake, which really is good.
So to introduce the subject of relationships, God’s plan was always for the human race he created to be interconnected, to relate to each other, their destiny is together. This is not some add-on subject because Andy couldn’t think of 6 themes to fill up the “Word Live” slots, the concept of relationships actually soaks through the whole series. I’ve put a slide up to remind us what subjects have been covered.
We need to understand that all of these area’s are actually bigger than just us (put on red bits) This is a big challenge to our way of thinking. Our society tends to focus on me, me, me. And like it or not our minds are practiced at thinking the same way about God, so we talk about MY relationship with God, The way God changed MY life, the plan God has for ME, How much God Loves ME. However, God wants us to think a bit differently, lets think about the way God changed OUR lives, the plan God has for US, How much he loves US.
Our destiny is for God to make us into something beautiful and amazing, but think back to the flour cake, To make the best cake ever sometimes the best thing the flour can do is not work hard at being the most wonderful, highly sieved, grit free flour. Sometimes the best thing for the cake is for the flour to help out the egg, who is having a hard time...
Ok, so the image of the cake is wearing a bit thin, but we have to get away from the image of the Christian walk being like this: (pic of runner). It’s really more like this
Now that was a bit of an introduction, I’m just going to show where we are going with this today. Relationships are a massive massive subject, and we have so many different relationships with so many people, I cant talk in detail about every situation. Instead I’m going to give some Biblical principles, and you are going to have to do some work, to figure out what you need to do about it
Now I’m going to divide things up into 3 sections, “The Church”, “The World” and then how we put it into practice. I need to start us off with the Church, because it is just a really incredible and amazing, beautiful thing, that is close to God’s heart, and we are all part of it, which is really exciting. Now I do want to be really clear at this point, I am not trying to put up some kind of wall between “the Church” and the world outside. Some Christians make the mistake, when they realise how wonderful and precious the church is, that they try to keep it that way and stop it getting ruined by the nasty people outside. That is something we really, really need to avoid. The church is amazing, and one of the things that makes it amazing is that God uses “the church” as his means to reach “the world” so I just must emphasise that although I will talk about “the church” and “the world” and the difference between them, I no no way want us to become a self absorbed Christian clique.
So (put on details) we need to understand what is “the church” because often our ideas might not have much to do with Gods Ideas, so we maybe need to get rid of some wrong ideas about it. Therefore I will start with “what it isn’t”. Then we move on to what it is. And for me looking into the Bible and discovering this has been really awe inspiring. Finally we look at What the church is for, what is the purpose of this thing that God has created. And looking at what the church is for moves us swiftly on to the relationships between the world and the church. How God uses the church in the world, and how we and God love the world.
Love is a word that crops up a lot in talk of ‘Relationships’ so in the final section we have to explore what Love is like, again to understand Gods Ideas of love, and challenge some of our own ideas of love. And Finally we will look at some really practical ways we can apply all of this stuff.
So to start, what is “The Church”
Well firstly the church is not a building. It doesn’t help that we tend to call our buildings “churches”, and I know at my church we sometimes say ‘welcome to the house of God” on Sunday mornings. However, I don’t see anywhere in the new testament that buildings are anything special. In 1 Corinthians 6:19 it says “don’t you know your body is a temple of the holy spirit”, God’s house is people, not places. If you connect with God especially well on a Sunday, it’s not because you are in a special building, it is because of the people you are with, and the things they are doing. Maybe we need to be less precious about our buildings – there are 90 million Christians in the rapidly growing Chinese underground church who don’t have a building between them.
Secondly, the church is not limited to specific times, Church doesn’t start at 10:30 on a Sunday morning, and then stop again at 12:30. You are always part of “the church” when you are at school, when you’re asleep, when you’re with friends, when you’re sinning.
Thirdly, Church is not an organisation or an institution. At my church you can become a “church member” by making certain promises, and signing a bit of paper. (now this is ok, there is nothing wrong with making a public commitment to your local church) but In Gods eyes it doesn’t work like that. If you are a Christian you are a member, there is no opt out (which may disappoint some?), but no one can rule you out. Being part of the church is part and parcel of the Christian life (press button)
So the church is, a group of people, in relationship together. The church is Everyone who belieives in Jesus and has given their life to him. If you are his disciple you are part of the church. If you haven’t you’re not. There is no other criteria.
So the church is all the people who have been saved by Jesus Christ (this includes people in heaven by the way) Now we might see this group of all the Christians in the world as being a ragtag group of misfits, of sock and sandal wearing weirdos, of irritating whingers. That might all be true, but Jesus sees the church in a different way.
Tonight we will focus on just two descriptions God gives his people, the church. Two really important ways of seeing us, are as the Bride of Christ, and The Body of Christ and we are going to explore these images in some depth. Now this is just scratching the surface, this is a huge subject on Gods heart, and he has a whole load of things to say to us (Next text) We just don’t have time to get into that tonight, but there is some homework, if you want to have a look over the next week or so.
We are going to start with thinking about “The Body of Christ”
Turn to 1 Cor 12 v 4 - 27
Lets work through this step by step. (Back up 1 slide) verses 7-11 is talking about spiritual gifts, Now in Judiths talk we learned about how God empowers us and gives us gifts, so I’m not going to talk about that today, but in the Corinthian church there were divisions forming about spiritual gifts, some people thought their gifts were better than others, people were getting particularly agitated about speaking in toungues, and the chuch was becoming divided by it all.
Pauls main point in verses 7-11 is that everyone is different, but God is in charge of it all. This is a really important message, different people have different strengths and weaknesses, different gifts and different callings, but God wants to use the differences, in fact NEEDS these differences to make church work right. God has never given any 1 christian everything. Everyone has some ‘gap’ every one NEEDS to be part of a church where others provide the gifts and skills we don’t have.
Then Paul talks about the church being ‘one body’ in verse 12, in fact if we take a peek at verse 27 the body is “christs Body” so it’s not just any old body.
And firstly he makes clear that all believers are part of it, there is no opt out. Verses 14-16. You can’t say “because I’m not in the worship band I’m not really part of the church” You ARE part of the church weather you feel like it or not. Don’t allow yourself to feel an outsider, or not a valued part of the Body, because God sees you and made you to be an important, vital, valuable part of his church. On the other hand this gives us responsbilities, if we are not playing our full part the body suffers - verse 17-18. If you are not doing your bit the body is missing something. A danger here is that we want to do the glamorous jobs – we might be a kneecap but we want to be hand, or God might want us to do something hidden, like helping put chairs away, or serving tea or coffee, but we want to be up the front preaching or leading worship. Don’t look at others, find what God wants you to do. You are a part of the body, and you should be contributing to it, at least by praying for your church, and by giving, and most likely actually doing stuff. Don’t wait till you are older – grab your youth leader and ask what you can do!
So verses 14-19 tell us how we should look at ourselves and our role, not to feel unworthy, or feel like we cant be bothered, but to play our part as a valued part of the body.
Verses 21-26 on the other hand tell us how we should look at others.
So v14 - 19 say that you have a part to play, but verses 21-26 remind us that others have a part to play, and we mustn’t reject them and their gifts. Now this works in 2 directions – don’t let anyone say “I don’t need you” to you. I’ve just said you need to get stuck in and you should be serving God in some way, don’t let older people in the church say “I don’t need you”. Now I think we need to realize this is a bit subtle, I’ve never heard a church leader say “I don’t need you” to anyone, it is normally something like “in a few years you might be able to help”. I’m going to make a slightly controversial comment, It really annoys me when people say “Young people are the church of tomorrow”, because, nice though it sounds, it is not really biblical. According to the Bibles definition of church, young people are the church of today. (now don’t get me wrong, young people are the church of tomorrow as well!) saying “Young people are the church of tomorrow”, is one step up from saying “young people are not welcome”, but it can sometimes be a way to say “I don’t need you – until tomorrow” and it can say something about the attitude of grown ups.
So that’s nice, don’t let people say “I don’t need you” down to you. But If you want to be a valued part of church you had jolly well better value everyone else. We tend to say “I don’t need you” to certain groups, for example, the old grannies who complain when there isn’t a hymn on the Organ, or don’t like loud worship. Wouldn’t it be better if they stopped whingeing or found another church more suited to old fogies? No way – just because someone complains you cant say “I don’t need you” to them. Do you think those old ladies are not important? After all what do they do? Well probably they are praying, most likely they are praying for young people like you. I think old ladies are going to be major celebrities in heaven as most churches most faithful prayer warriers are old grannies. Also do you think they can’t teach you anything? How can a doddery old lady know anything about the life of a generation Y, iPod-ed up, mobile phone wielding internet generation? Well perhaps they know stuff and have persevered through stuff you couldn’t imagine. Next time you’re life is in tatters and you hate God because some guy you’ve been dating for 2 weeks dumped you, perhaps it’s time to talk to an old lady who has lived 20 years since her husband of 40 years died, perhaps it’s time to talk to someone who’s in constant pain from arthritis, can’t really get out of the house, and can’t even hear or see her TV properly. And yet through all of this persevere in the Lord, and be full of Joy and passion for him and his people. Older people are a treasure trove of life experience, but we can resent them for disliking change, and holding back the church, and we don’t benefit from their gifts and minstries and experience because we never think they are worth the effort of getting to know.
So sure, don’t let anyone say “I don’t need you” because you are young, but be very careful not so say “I don’t need you” to others because they are old, or a bit odd, or wear socks with sandals, or because maybe they tell you off sometimes.
Now lets have a quick look at verses 12-13 again
Now these verses remind us of the unity in the church. We were all baptized by one spirit, and we were all given one Spirit to drink. From this we see that the purpose of the holy spirit is not just to give us power to do stuff, his purpose is to make us united. And this unity crosses human barriers. It says V13 … baptized into one body, whether Jews or greeks, slave or free.
Now when this was written the differences between the Jews and the greeks and between slaves and freemen were massive, huge social, religious barriers, I’m guessing there are probably not all that many Jews, Greeks or slaves in our churches, so I’ve tried a 21st century re-write
“For we were all baptized by one spirit into one body – weather young or old, United fans or City fans (even Bolton fans), whether business tycoons or on benefits, weather scallies or Emos, weather at Bury Church school or Heywood Community, weather intelligent or having learning difficulties, weather northern or southern, weather nice or hard to get on with, weather hygienic or having slight Body odour issues – and we were all given the one spirit to drink
Now this is easy to say but hard to do. If someone from a different category to us walks into our church or youth group, do we immediately wonder what will get nicked or broken? Do we let someone else talk to them, not us? Do we tell ourselves they would be welcome if only they would dress the same way, listen to the same music and be generally a bit nicer?
(now don’t get me wrong, being inclusive doesn’t mean ignoring sin, if people are disrespectful, antisocial, knife carrying etc God wants to deal with it, but the place he deals with it is in the church (that is the people, not the building))
So that wraps up one of the descriptions of the church, “The Body of Christ” Every part is important and needs to step up to the plate, and no part has the right to look down on another bit.
The Bride of Christ
So back to The Church, All that was just the 2nd bullet point, The church is the body of Christ, we’re now going to look at the first one, the church as well as being the body of Christ, is the Bride of Christ.
Lets go back to Genesis 2, verse 18 and then verse 22-24
The lord God said “it is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him”… verse 22 “Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken from the the man and he brought her to the man. The man said “this is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; She shall be called woman for she was taken out of man. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and they will become one flesh”.
Now did anyone notice, when I read that last time I only read the first half. I said “it is not good for man to be alone” and the launched into all this stuff about needing relationships, and God brining us together in the church. Was that a bit dishonest? Should I really have said “we all need relationships, so you’d better all get married folks”?
Well we need to have a delve in some other parts of the Bible, lets launch off to Ephesians 5:25-33
This letter contains instructions about how husbands and wives should treat each other, and Paul quotes the verses from Genesis 2, however, he makes it clear that the mystery of marriage is really about Jesus’ relationship with the church, not just 2 people who love each other.
If we look in Revelation 21 (this is great, I’ve managed to get the first chapter of Genesis and the 2nd last chapter of revelation in 1 talk) verse 2 says “I saw the holy city… prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband”, and again in verse 9.
This is the climax of human history. 5000 years (and counting) 66 books, 1251 pages (in my Bible) of font size 4. And it turns out God’s story, humanities story is a mushy chick flick, all this stuff happens, she runs off with the wrong guy, disaster strikes and she needs rescuing, but at the end they get married and live happily ever after. In Genesis 2 God says it is not good for man to be alone, all this stuff happens, then In Revelation 21 at the end of time Jesus marries his bride, the church.
So what does it mean then if the church is the Bride of Christ?
Well marriage is the deepest human relationship that you get a choice about (you cant pick your parents or kids, but you do choose a husband/wife) God Chooses us, not because he is stuck, or couldn’t get anyone better, but because he is madly in Love.
In fact it says “a man will leave his father and mother, and be united to his wife” so actually the marriage relationship is more important than the parent/child relationship.
And this kind of lurve is passionate, and daring and risk taking, Jesus loves the church in a passionate, dramatic way. The Bible, in contrast to the Koran or most other religious books contains a love poem – Song of Songs, read it (maybe once you are over 18, it’s a bit raunchy!) and imagine the Lover is Jesus talking to his church, the beloved.
So what does this mean practically? Well we should enjoy being loved like this, and especially if we are not married (I’m guessing a lot of you are not) You might not have a human marriage (the picture) but you are part of the beloved bride of christ, which is the real thing.
Another one, if you can’t be bothered praying, and you don’t know if God is really listening or really cares, hear this from Song of Songs 2:14 “My Dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hiding places of the mountainside, show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet and your face is lovely”
Jesus is like a star stuck lover, just waiting for that text message, wanting to hear our voice in prayer.
So that is just a tantilising glimpse of some aspects of “The Church”, the body of Christ and the Bride of Christ. Now this talk was supposed to be about relationships, and so far I’ve only spoken about relationships inside the church, which is only a small fraction of all our relationships. However, we need to understand the church, because the church is the means God uses in his relationship with the world.
So when we think of relating to the world, because we are a body, because we are in it together, instead of thinking about how ‘I’ will relate to the world, lets rethink along the lines of how WE (the church) will relate to the world. (Part 2 slide)
Now lets think again of this description “the body of Christ” The description pops up again in Ephesians where it describes Jesus as the head, and his people as the hands and feet. Now in our bodies, if our brain has an idea “I know I’ll walk over there” The brain gets the legs and feet to make it happen.
It is the same with God, if God wants to make things happen, he gets the church on the case (he also helps directly by speaking to people) but almost always he works through us. Now that Jesus has gone, physically, from the earth, his physical body is in heaven but his body, the church, is still around to do the same stuff. Whatever Jesus came to do, we should do. (now this is supposed to be about relationships, not instructions for what we should be doing, so that is something to look up yourself, but try looking at Luke 4:18-19 and thinking about how the church should be doing this part of Jesus mission.
But when we think about relationships we do need to think of one aspect of the church’s mission. That is that the church was created to be God billboard, actually more like God’s TV channel, The Church is the means God wants to use to speak to the world.
Now how are we going to show the world that we are his followers?
Remember the questions at the start?
What did anyone put for question 2?
Let’s have a look at John 13:34-35
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.
Now at first this looks easy to understand, all it says is we should love each other, a lot. But verse 35 is quite striking, it says that the way people will know we are his disciples is not because we go to church, not because we wear a WWJD bracelet, not because we tut when they swear, not because we wear socks with sandals, but because they see that we love each other.
Does anyone see the massive massive problem here?
The problem is, most of my non Christian friends have no idea how I interact with other Christians, they never see it. So it is hard for them to tell I am really a disciple. We try too hard to share the gospel with our non-Christian friends, without sharing our Christian friends with them. But they need to see our ‘inside the church’ relationships to know we are disciples
We don’t let them see ‘the church’ (the people) which is Gods billboard to speak to them, so we need to make a concerted effort to invite non-Christians to Christian group activities. So we need to think more like this. If there is some problem with this you need to ask why. Do we feel uncomfortable inviting our solid Christian friends to meet our non-Christian mates? Is this because what we do with our non-Christian friends is a bit dodgy? Do we behave different to when we are in church groups? Or are we uncomfortable inviting non-Christians to meet Christian friends, why? Is what you do boring, or are they too odd? Maybe think about doing some more fun stuff with your Christian mates, so you don’t just meet at church events – then it will be easier to get non-Christians along. Now all of this is going to mean you have to love your Christian friends, and your non-Christian friends. Non Christians are not going to just observe that you really love each other, they are going to have to sense it, and feel it.
So what does ‘Love’ look like? This is not such an easy question, Qn 3 on sheet society bombards us with images of love that might not be quite the same as Gods ideas. Love is generally seen as something a bit mushy involving puppies, hearts, flowers, sex, chocolate, GHD straighteners. Etc etc.
Fortunately God tells us what love is like: We are going to turn to 1 Corinthians 13.
Before we read it, let’s just remember where it fits into the book as a whole. This is another bible passage that always ends up in weddings, but again we see that it has nothing to do with marriage (actually that’s not true, you are supposed to love each other in marriage, and this is a good guide) but lets look, and surprise surprise it comes immediately after the bit we read before about the church, and the body of Christ.
God gave this description of Love, not so tell husbands and wives how to behave, so much as to tell the church how to behave. Lets read it.
The first 2 verses bring up the subject of Tongues and spiritual gifts, and point out that without love, they are all pointless. And this is true in Church, you can be mega talented, and do all kinds of stuff, but if you are not loving, you are not building up the body and you are wasting your time. Verses 4 to 7 describe what love looks like.
I think a valuable thing to do here as we come close to the end is just to take 5 minutes. Put your name in instead of love, so for me it would be “Tim is patient”, “Tim is kind”
For each one just spend some time thinking of the times this week that you have and haven’t been patient, or kind, ask God to forgive you and ask him to help you do better in the coming week. Once we have done that I will just wrap up with a few practical applications of what we have learned tonight.
Just as we finish, I’m going to suggest a few practical things to do, which result from what we have looked at. Now the practical application for each one of us will be slightly different, so do spend some time reading the verses, thinking about what God might be saying and deciding how it best applies to you.
The First thing we might need to do, is get right with God if we realise some of the way we live and some of our attitudes to others don’t match up to Gods word, and his plan.
This might involve asking for forgiveness in prayer, it might also mean asking people who we have ignored, or treated badly for forgiveness. It might also mean us making more of an effort with some people in our churches or outside.
Secondly, we sometimes need to get help. Now the wonderful thing about the church, is that we are more powerful together than when alone. Jesus says in Matt 18:20 “For when 2 or 3 come together in my name, there I am with them”. What this means is that when 2 or 3 of you come together to pray, Jesus is there in way that he isn’t when you pray on your own, so take advantage of this. If you want to see stuff happen in your life, in your family, in your church, don’t just stand there – pray about it. And don’t pray on your own, pray in a group – be church together, Jesus says it will be more powerful that way.
Thirdly we need to get off our backsides and do more in our area. You are a part of the body of Christ, so God needs you to be serving him, your walk with God will suffer if you are not doing at least something. So talk to your youth leaders and church leaders and find out what you can do to help at your church. And don’t feel like you are less worthy if you are doing a behind the scenes job – cleaning, moving stuff etc, the bit about the body says that all roles are equally valuable to the body, you don’t need to be up the front to make an impact.
Fourth, have a think about how you are going to evangelise, and how you love your brothers and sisters – how can you change your social life to introduce not-yet-Christian friends into experiencing the love that exists in the church?
Fifth, have a look on this website
The church is a worldwide body, and our brothers and sisters in other countries have a really rough time sometimes, with oppression, arrest, torture, confiscation of homes and properties and sometimes death. However, we can make a difference to them by praying, writing letters to victims and governments. They are a suffering part of the body and if they suffer we suffer.