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Move Over: The Root of Relationship Conflicts

• Greg Boyd

We tend to break the world in to sacred and secular, but in reality this is a false dichotomy. No matter where Jesus was or what relationship he was in He was fully present as a walking talking embodiment of the Kingdom of God. Instead of walking around with hungry hearts using others in an attempt to fill up our need for security, significance, and worth, we are called to mimic Christ in all our relationships by being filled by our relationship with the Father and letting that overflow to those around us.

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Jesus never took a break from the Kingdom in any of His relationships. The question for us is how to take his example and bring more of the Kingdom in to each of our relationships. We get this encouragement in Jesus’ prayer in John 17 where we see His hope that we will know that the same love that is in Jesus from the Father is available for us, and that people would know God’s love from our expression of this love to one another. We are not loved with a secondary love, but rather the same love that God loves himself.

A helpful way to think of the flow of love is vertical from God to us and horizontal from us to one another. It is God’s dream and design that we’d be filled vertically by His love and that love would overflow to those around us. Unfortunately we live in a world that is far from this truth and is dominated many times by division, hatred, jealously, and violence. The temptation in answering the question of “what is wrong with the world?” is to point the finger and blame others, but Jesus invites us to start with ourselves. What we often find is that our horizontal relationships are fragmented because our vertical relationship is being blocked.

The reality for all of us is that we were created with a God shaped hunger in our hearts. We all have a desire to matter, to be significant, and feel secure. This is a non-negotiable that will not go away no matter what. We were meant to be overflowers, but we can’t give to others what we don’t first have ourselves. So this requires us to first trust and surrender to God, because God can’t fill us if we’re not open to it. When the vertical flow stops our hunger for significance causes us to see the world around us as potential food. Instead of coming to these horizontal relationships full looking to overflow, we see them as potential sources of significance to feed off of. This in essence is idolatry. Our relationships turn in to quid pro quo conditional setups where we are willing to give as long as we’re getting something to make us feel full in return. This inevitably leads to fracturing.

If God is not the source, then He’s also no longer the center. We become the center and rather than being an overflowing cup of sorts, we turn in to a black hole constantly hungry for affection and worth. We use wealth, achievements, status, being right, possessions, ethnicity, good looks, fame, and a number of other things to gain our sense of a full life. In the process we end up sucking the life away from those around us instead of building them up. All fragmentation and conflict ultimately traces its way back to this striving for false life as its source.

In order to counter this temptation and remain free to love we must drink from the well that is God’s love regularly. In this we remain free being who were created to be, an overflower of the love we receive in order to build others up around and show them the love that Jesus prayed for us in the garden of Gethsemane.

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Topics: Identity in Christ, Kingdom of God, Relationships

Sermon Series: Next Level Relationships

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Focus Scripture:

  • John 17:20-23

    My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one - I in them and you in me - so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

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3 thoughts on “Move Over: The Root of Relationship Conflicts

  1. Joann says:

    I agree very much with your wonderful words. It’s too bad we are all born as a black hole with the need for love. We hopefully get love from our parents. But as parents we need to teach our children that as much as we love them, God loves us even more. Maybe then they will grow in God’s love instead of our love.

  2. Peter says:

    For those who choose to read this, please excuse the length as, even so, there are still many aspects that could do with a fuller explanation.

    It has probably been more than coincidental that my current scripture studies/themes, to some extent, parallel what Greg has mentioned in his recent messages.

    The main point of confluence for me has been truth and love.

    John 17:7 says, where Jesus is talking to the disciples, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” We know God is true and when He spoke, the Creation issued from His word of command. From this we understand when man was created in the Image of God that he was created out of the Truth and Love of God to be like Him in Image, exhibiting righteousness, goodness, holiness, love and truth but not, of course, having deity. This wasn’t a creation where ‘near enough was good enough’…it was perfect…and when we/I contemplate who we are, it sends reverberations through my body to know the glorious nature and position we hold in Creation.

    The Love of God, as Greg indicated, is that which exists within the Triune relationship of the Father, Son and Spirit. If that Love were self-centred to each member of the Trinity then the Triune relationship would cease to exist! No, the Love of God is other person centred…the Father Loves the Son, Loves the Spirit as the Son Loves the Father and the Spirit and the Spirit Loves the Father and the Son.

    Transferring this to our own situation, if we look at the classic verses of Matt 22:36-40,

    ““Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he [Jesus] said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.””

    While Jesus is explaining this to the lawyer, the very commandments is what Jesus is obeying/displaying in His humanity…our love is not to be self-centred but other person centred namely, to God and our neighbour.

    We know that Jesus is a servant of all and that God is constantly giving through and to mankind…whether that be from rain to the Spirit.

    So living in a loving relationship with God and our fellow creatures, is living the Truth of who we are and what we are, while being in a functional and beautiful Creation and having a purposeful goal and vocation…true freedom.

    However, as Greg has indicated we are glad our Kingdom is not of this world…where man has, “exchanged the truth about God for a lie” (Rom 1:25) or, the fuller quote (Rom 1:18-25),

    “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse; for although they knew God they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonouring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen.”

    In other words God’s Truth shows their works to be wicked and they seek to hide or suppress the Truth and live lives in deception

    As one commentator mentions,

    “When man listened to the serpent’s voice (word), then he accepted that word as the truth, and refused God’s voice as the truth. The temptation did not seem to be an evil one: ‘You shall be as God [or, “gods”], knowing good and evil.’ Up to this point, man had depended upon God to know the good (truth) and evil (untruth). Now, from innocence man passed to guilt, from obedience to disobedience; he began to make his own choices as to what was good and what was evil.
    Nowhere in the world do we meet persons who do not believe that they can distinguish between good and evil. It is universal that man thinks he knows what is true and what is untrue. Mostly, in making the distinction, his thought is, ‘This would be good for me!’ or, ‘This would be bad for me!’ Such thinking can never provide a proper basis for him to avoid being deceived. He does not understand what is the actual truth, unless he knows God, and lives in the truth of God”

    We are also reminded of John 8:44 where Jesus says, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

    The situation gets little better as the commentator continues to describe,

    “But there is, sadly enough, a state of mind which arrogantly refuses the truth. Jesus said clearly that knowing the truth would set us free. It does not uselessly bind human beings. Rather it is the means and functional way of freedom. Still, some refuse it. In II Thessalonians 2:9-12 Paul states, ‘The coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power and with pretended signs and wonders’ and with all wicked deception for those who are to perish, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends upon them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false, so that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness’.
    This is a rather terrifying passage. Notice, however, that the ones spoken of are those who refused to love the truth. They are those who love the lie. It cannot be said that they do not know the truth, at least in one sense, for otherwise they could not suppress it. They do know it and so they can suppress it. Intention of will must be seen here or we will think that God drew them to believe what is false—so to speak—against their own wills.”

    God has always sort to confront us with the Truth whether that is through Creation or His Word. We know that His prophets were killed (suppressed?) delivering the Truth and the Law is God’s Truth (Ps 119:142), “Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and thy law is the truth.”

    When the Son was incarnated (Jn 1:14), “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”, Jesus demonstrated what it was for man to live the Truth…as mankind should have if it had not Fallen…and will in the New Creation.

    Before Jesus ascended to Heaven, there was the promise of the Holy Spirit. The verse recorded in John 14 is stunning starting at verse 15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” His commandments are already the Truth as we have previously mentioned and specifically, loving God and your neighbour. Then verses 16-17, “ And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you.” A perfect example of the Father’s Love…”he will give you another Counselor…the Spirit of truth” (viz. other person centred in giving). And naturally because the world has exchanged the Truth for a lie, “the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him”.

    The next verses (18-24) spell out the relationship between God and man,

    ““I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world will see me no more, but you will see me; because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.”

    There are a number of scriptures that draw out a similar thread…here are some of them,

    John 14:6
    Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.

    John 16:13
    When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

    1 Corinthians 2:13
    And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who possess the Spirit.

    Ephesians 1:13
    In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit

    2 Timothy 1:14
    guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.

    1John 46
    We are of God. Whoever knows God listens to us, and he who is not of God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

    So the Truth is not just something we know but something we do…our Christian ‘lifestyle’, bearing in mind that in the New Creation, there will be no liars or deceivers and, even now as Paul says in Eph 4:15, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ”.

    Accordingly, if I am reviewing my life akin to Greg’s previous message I would be asking such questions as to whether I am living in the Truth and, whether I hunger and thirst for the Word rather than looking for satisfaction in a material world (that only satisfies short term needs). I would also be asking what constrains my love namely, self love or love for God and others. However, I also find Matt 6:33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness….” being an attitude of mind (and also taking in the context of what is discussed above), where I see, at times, amazing provisions at the hand of God.

  3. Robert says:

    Amen it reminds me of the story about the preacher who went to visit the older lady at her house, and while she was preparing tea for them he flipped through her bible. As he was flipping through he noticed several verses with the letters T.P. next to them. When she returned he asked her what the T.P. stood for and she said Oh pastor that stands for tried and proven, I’ve tried those promises and proven that they are true. that’s how I feel about Greg’s message I’ve tried and proven that Jesus is enough, even when the whole world is against us Jesus is enough.

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