Apr 15, 2009

Redemptive Relationships

Lately, I have been considering what exactly “redemptive relationship” is. I must confess, I have difficulty in relationships. I do not trust, I do not love, I do not sacrifice my agendas or desires for the benefit of the other person and the glory of Christ. As a result, most relationships, whether intimate or casual, lack depth and authenticity. I am selective with whom I share my struggles, desires, dreams and fears. Very few people are allowed so close. In contrast, the relationships with those who somehow gain my trust tend toward dysfunction as I tend toward selfishness. Though the extent of disclosure varies, all my relationships lack redemptive quality and I sought to understand why.

Redemptive relationships are marked by a singular focus: Christ. He is the means, the end, the motive, and the strength to live in messy relationships with flawed people. A redemptive relationship is a synergism of two broken people being transformed—sanctified—into the image of Christ. The synergism, redemption, sanctification does not occur without love. Love is the mark of a Christian, it is the very character of God, and it is the foundation of my salvation so its importance in relationship is quite logical. And yet, so many of my relationships suffer from a severe lack of love.

Love is a wholly selfless decision to place the needs and desires of another person above my own. It seeks to encourage and understand. It offers affection and compassion, sympathy and empathy, and honest desire to meet in the horrible circumstance with the desperate desire to do whatever it takes to help. A billboard along my usual drive to school simply states, “Love eases pain.” Indeed it does, yet it goes beyond easing pain; it searches out the source for total restoration of hope, joy, peace, beauty. Love is impartial, not differentiating between friend and enemy, lovable and unlovely. Love must be received to be reciprocated. Love is not content to tolerate sin; it works to sanctify, purify. Love holds tight to the promises of future grace, seeking the Glory of the Father here and now while longing for the Glory yet to come. Love is an incarnation of the character and presence of God. Love is necessary for redemption.

As I read and sought to better understand this beautiful concept, God’s word convicted me. The theme running through the relationships of Christ on earth, of God with his people, of the apostles with those they were seeking to save is love. I thought I understood love as it pertained to missions, as it pertained to friendship, as it pertained to marriage. Obviously my understanding did not broach the depth and importance of love in relationships for the redemptive work of Christ. I am devoid of compassion and full of selfishness which is in direct opposition to life I claim to live, the God I claim to serve. I discovered the truth that every relationship is God’s. He orchestrates and arranges the entrances of people into my life and blesses me with opportunities to reflect his Glory, his fame, his goodness, his mercy and his truth in darkness. He allows me to participate in His relationships. How foolish I have been! I wrote about this realization in my journal a few days ago:
I am a relationship thief. I view relationships as my own, as experiences I control for my own purpose. The reality is all relationships are God’s, designed by God for the justification and sanctification of his people. Every relationship is designed and intended to be redemptive, bringing all parties closer to the heart of Christ.

How can this be? How can I, a very sinful girl, participate in redemptive relationships? By being an “imitator of God… walk(ing) in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

As I follow Christ, putting on his character, incarnate his love, I take part in the redemptive work of Christ through the cross. Such relationships are for my good and His glory, but they will require a sacrifice of my agenda and selfish desires. They require constant communion with Christ to protect me from sinful response. Every interaction must be tempered with love, dependent on Christ’s leading and with the goal of drawing others to worship Christ.

In conclusion, I must apologize to those I called friends and yet failed so severely to incarnate the character of Christ, becoming an antagonist to his redemptive work in your life. As write this, specific people come to mind and I must beg their forgiveness. I hope you know that I will not always succeed. Selfish Mandee will still surface quite frequently. However, I will not take what is not mine. I will continually press into the heart of Christ so that you might be close to it as well.