This post first appeared in the Christianity for Life blog
How often have you and your significant other spent hours or days arguing or not speaking because of some real or imagined slight or error? The world just isn’t right during those times, you can’t think straight, you can’t relax, your sleep is disturbed. Your life remains unsettled until the matter is made right and you’re once again reconciled with the one you love. To a lesser degree its the same when friends have a falling out over something that was said, inferred or not said. Everyone is disgruntled until the issue is dealt with.
Most would agree that we’re at our happiest when all is well with our relationships. You know, when there’s nothing coming between you and your spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend. When there isn’t any conflict at work; some unfinished job, poorly executed task or negative behavior that comes between you and your boss or co-workers. When your friends are still your friends. When there’s nothing between you and your conscience. And when you have assurance that all is right between you and God.
Rare times indeed. Everyday life is filled with our pursuit of harmony in our relationships. Whether its internal or external, we spend a lot of time in damage control, managing those obstacles that so often come between us and our connections with others or our relationship with ourselves.
What are these things that so often come between us? If each of us is pursuing happiness and relationship harmony, why do we have such a hard time achieving it? We like to think we’re intelligent people, capable of civility, good behavior and all-round niceness, but still we mess it up. All of us. Maybe not all the time, and definitely some folks more than others, but every one of us will place barriers between ourselves and relationship happiness. Why is that?
Its as though we’re all hopelessly flawed as a fundamental characteristic of our being.
The Bible tells us that this is, in fact, quite true. There is such a flaw in our very nature. As much as we try to avoid it, our flaw repeatedly leads us to actions, omissions or words that separate us from harmony in our relationships. Even in our relationship with God. We can’t help ourselves. Throughout the Bible these offending actions, omissions or words are referred to as sin. Our flaw is itself labelled as sin.
So are we all sinners? That sounds a bit harsh. If I’m doing my best with nothing but good intentions then I can hardly be labelled a sinner just because I upset some people from time to time! What about terrorists and violent criminals? They’re the real sinners, not me!
It depends how you look at things. If I embrace a relative morality that compares my actions and intentions with other people, I might come out looking pretty good. But if I compare myself with the holy and righteous God, and His absolute morality, I’m missing the mark on so many levels its ridiculous! But of course the Bible is God’s word and, as such, is written from the perspective of – you guessed it – our holy and righteous God. So its no surprise that the Bible tells me I’ve fallen short.
OK so I’m a sinner when compared to God. I get that. But if its because of a fundamental flaw in my character, a flaw in the character of all humans, then isn’t that God’s fault? After all, He’s the One who made me!
Good question. Here’s another one – if God made us perfect in every way, would that perfection include free will or would it make us robotic slaves to every will of God? In the latter case it wouldn’t be much of a world would it? God would have created a herd of bland, predictable automatons who cower and tremble at His every word. His desire for a relationship with loving, worshipful beings wouldn’t be met at all. But with a free will, our relationship with Him is real. When we worship Him we mean it. When we further His Kingdom we do it to please Him. When we praise him and give him the glory He deserves, its because we want to. Because we feel it!
So God gave us free will. And then we messed it up.
With a little help from God’s enemy, Satan, we chose to go our own way and run the world so as to please ourselves, not Him. You know the story – Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, a serpent and a forbidden fruit. That’s when we fell. That’s where we picked up the flaw in our character.
So ever since, we’ve had this great divider putting itself between us and our fellow humans, between us and God, and between us and our consciences. This great divider called sin.
In our relationships with people we pursue our own interests and pleasure at the expense of others, and things inevitably go sour. In our relationship with God we ignore His will and go our own way, and as a consequence the world is a place of hate, pain and suffering. In our relationship with ourselves, we know when and where we fall short and our conscience brings guilt.
So what’s to be done? If we have a flaw in our character that makes it difficult to get along with others, then I suppose we could live with it and try to minimize the impact by trying harder, hoping that everyone will learn to forgive and forget as we muddle through life. But can we expect that of God? Will God just sigh and say, “Oh well, there goes that character flaw again. I guess they can’t help it.”
Not according to the Bible.
God cannot tolerate sin. Its not that He won’t tolerate sin, He cannot tolerate sin. He has no choice – its His nature. So God has to respond to sin in a manner that is just and righteous. And guess what? The wages of sin is death! Not looking good for us sinners is it? The death penalty. But wait a minute, don’t we all die anyway? No one lives forever.
Actually, we do live forever. But sin brings about the death of our relationship with God. So its all about eternity. I won’t dive into the doctrines of heaven and hell here, but its sufficient to say that our sin will cause us to spend eternity without God. An eternity without love, without good, without righteousness, without provision, without justice. Without God. Eternity.
This all begs the questions, “If God is love and all that, how could He allow this situation to happen? How could He trap us in this hopeless situation without a way out? How could He do that? He’s supposed to love us!”.
Enter Jesus Christ.
God does love us. So He devised a way out of our mess that would satisfy His requirement for the consequence of sin. The penalty would be paid, and humanity would again be positioned to spend eternity with God. To achieve this seemingly impossible task, He came into our world Himself as a man, God’s son, Jesus Christ. He lived among us and knew all the temptations to sin that we experience in our everyday lives. But He remained sinless. Then, God allowed Jesus Christ to be visibly sacrificed on the cross of Calvary. While on that cross, and in the three days following His bodily death, God poured upon Jesus a penalty sufficient to cover the sin, past, present and future, of all of humanity. Then, to demonstrate that death had been defeated, once and for all, He raised Jesus Christ from death into eternal life.
Talk about healing the relationship! This is the wonderful new reality for us today.
So now what? I’m still the same person with my character flaw.
To see any benefit from God’s gift, we must first accept what Jesus did for us, and accept him as our Savior. Most of my readers are Christians who have already experienced God’s wonderful gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, but if you’re not one of them, I recommend you read the brief article, “What is Christianity?” Say the simple prayer suggested there and follow the advice. Your life will be forever changed.
So what of our salvation? Does that result in an automatic restoration of all our relationships? Our relationship with God is potentially restored to the extent that we can now approach Him clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, but is that relationship truly restored? And what about our day-to-day dealings with friends, foes and family?
As Christians our sins are forgiven. But our relationships can still suffer when we continue to allow sin to come between us. We’re saved by the grace of God but its easy to let our relationship with God grow stale and lifeless when sin gets in the way. Its hard to talk with God in prayer and supplication when there’s unresolved, repressed sin that haunts our spirit. Likewise, when we have wronged, offended, or otherwise injured our relationship with another person, its always because of sin. Gossip, lies and deceit. Even those sins that are confessed and forgiven by God can remain as obstacles to healthy relationships. So it appears we still need some help in this area.
Enter the Holy Spirit.
Before His crucifixion Jesus promised that His Father, God, would send us a comforter, or helper, so that we can keep His commandments. This comforter is the Holy Spirit. If we ask Him in Jesus’ name, God will send us the Holy Spirit who will guide us in thought and spirit in our daily lives. This goes a long way to keeping us on the straight and narrow so as to avoid those pitfalls that hurt our interactions with others in this challenging, fallen world.
So if you’re struggling with your relationships, ask for help. Whether you need guidance for your own actions or words, or direction on how to react to the behavior of others, The Holy Spirit is here to assist.
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