Being made in the image of God means that we are created to make and keep commitments. In this second segment of our Worth the Risk series, Seth explores commitment’s role in our relationships. A kingdom relationship is a creation in and of itself, and that creation requires constant care in the form of honest conversations about the things that come between us. Our tendency is to avoid conflict, confrontation, and rebuke because we believe a lie. We believe we can’t be honest and keep our friendships, but like all forms of deception this lie leads to relational death.
Unhealthy commitments can come in one of two extremes. On the one hand as we explored last week, people can have commitment phobia where they always hold out for something better to come along and therefore never fully commit for fear of missing out on something else. On the other hand, commitment can also be a form of idolatry if it becomes a follow through at all costs, or chasing selfish desires endeavor (i.e. committed to a career at the cost of a family). Commitment in and of itself is not a kingdom thing unless it’s followed through with kingdom principles.
God shows us time and time again in scripture that He is in the business of making and keeping commitments. It is making and keeping commitments in the right way that builds a life. At the end of the day, church is nothing more than a group of people relating to each other in a certain way, and then reaching out to other people and inviting them in to that way of relating. The bible talks about our relationships to one another and to God with a specific type of language. It’s the language of covenant. The covenant relationship is not split in half with both people taking half, but rather something that two people care for and grow together. It loses all the 50/50 contractual legal language that has your own best interest in mind and rather is something both people are committed to cultivating together.
One aspect of relationships that can cause the most turmoil is conflict and confrontation. Leviticus 19:16-17 speaks of “rebuking your neighbor frankly, so you don’t share in their guilt.” A rebuke is simply coming face to face to work out what of great value has been de-valued and needs corrected. Crucial conversations are those that will have a lasting effect on the quality of your relationship. They usually consist of: (1) high stakes, (2) opposing opinions, & (3) strong emotions. What is said and not said in these situations either builds or tears down the relationship.
One way to measure the health of relationship is how long the lag time is between an offense and a crucial conversation about that offense. If a person doesn’t talk it out, he or she will act it out. This can come in angry outbursts, withdrawing, or a number of other manifestations of unresolved feelings. Offense turns into resentment, which if left unchecked in a person’s heart can grow in to hate. Much like Cain in Genesis 4 whose face was downcast when God visited him, if we’re not expressing our anger to God and leave ourselves open for correction and guidance, that unexpressed anger will grow to hate and we’ll start acting it out. Rebuking and being rebuked is really hard work. Our time and energies need to go to those life has brought close to us and with whom we’ve entered covenant relationships.
We have a tendency to suffer from terminal niceness where we believe the lie that our friendships will not survive straightforward honesty. But in reality the most unloving thing we can do for our relationships is not telling the truth. There are seasons to a relationship. Most never move past the honeymoon forming and storming phases where conflict and confrontation first happens. The reward for honesty and continuing to show up in love in this stormy phase is growth and a long term relationship, but many never make it there because of the honesty lie. Leviticus says if I see sin in my friend’s life and don’t say anything I’ve become responsible as well.
We have these moments in all of our relationships where we’re presented with the option to throw in the towel or dig in. It takes great courage to be committed and say this is who I am, will you love and care for me? If I’m not willing to show up and be vulnerable with others, I have to ask myself, what else is there?
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