A man and his wife were having some problems at home and were giving each other the “silent treatment”. Suddenly, the man realized that the next day, he would need his wife to wake him at 5:00am for an early morning business flight. Not wanting to be the first to break the silence (and LOSE), he wrote on a piece of paper, “Please wake me at 5:00am.” He left it in a prominent place where he knew she would find it.
The next morning, the man woke up, only to discover it was 9:00am and he had missed his flight. Furious, he was about to go and see why his wife hadn’t wakened him, when he noticed a piece of paper by the bed. The paper said, “It is 5:00am. Wake up.”
Men are not equipped for these kinds of contests!!
Although that may be a funny illustration, for some people it may be a reality, a little close to home. When we become dysfunctional in a relationship, it can be incredibly hard to get ourselves out of the rut we find ourselves in. I recognise that not all of us are married, but even if that is the case we are all in a relationship of one form or another. We all have relationships in common.
So what is “God’s intentions for human relationships and community.” The two passages from Genesis that we have heard today speak firstly into how we as human beings are created to be in relationship with God, secondly how we called to relate to one another and in community, and thirdly into the nature of a loving relationship between a man and a woman.
I love the book of Genesis. There is something about it that speaks into the very core of my being and somehow it restores in me a hope for humanity. It speaks into where we are, and where in God’s grace we will be. Every time I pick up the Bible and turn to it, I just see a loving God with such an incredible desire to bless us and be in relationship with us. Genesis reminds us of how we are created to be.
Some things perhaps emerge from this. As we were originally created, and before the Fall, we had no knowledge of good and evil. That must be our starting point of understanding how we are called to be. Being created in God’s image and likeness means that:
- We are created with the ability to do good, and to do the right things
- Within this, we have free will and the ability to make choices, our own choices
- Of all of God’s creation, we are unique and set apart with a specific purpose
- We are created to be in fellowship and relationship with God. That is the primary reason for our existence
- We are created to be in fellowship and relationship with one another. That is a consequence of the primary reason of our existence. We are hard wired to be in community.
- It is God’s desire for us to be fruitful, to live our potential, to be all that we were created to be in Christ.
- We all share a common origin and a shared humanity.
It all began to go wrong as a consequence of the Fall, and after lengthy reflection I think there are two key causes that typically lie at the root of this. These causes are power (which is often linked to pride) and fear (which is often linked to shame). I can probably count on one hand the number of people I have met in life who have been able to wield power and authority well and in a Godly way:
- We fail to see ourselves through God’s eyes; we don’t live in the knowledge that we are children of God, and loved unconditionally by God. You see this in the creation account when Adam and Eve experienced shame for the first time.
- We fail to see one another through God’s eyes; we are more caught up in me, me, me rather than God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Pride gets in the way of many things in life.
- We fail to acknowledge that all of us are created in God’s image and likeness. Even in the 21st century, it is abhorrent that we still live with slavery, oppression of women, and oppression of minorities – the list goes on. These all have in common an abuse of power and often an unrealistic fear.
- We fail to even understand the implications of that and what it means to be in God’s image and likeness and with the responsibility that that imposes on us. It is almost as if we live in denial.
- We struggle to wield power and authority in a Godly way, and don’t properly understand what it means to have dominion over something. There is a fine line between leadership and coercion, between a right use of power and abuse.
- We live with fear; fear that we are good enough, fear that others are good enough and so on
- We live under the consequences of the Fall, rather than in the light of Christ and the New Life that he invites us into
All of these can result in broken and fragmented relationships – with God, with one another and in how we perceive ourselves. The solution to this is love: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” And love involves sacrifice, leaving no space for pride and power struggles, instead opening the door for grace. Love also involves accountability. We have an accountability first and foremost to God, but we also have an accountability to one another.
I want you to think about some of the things that you might have said to someone you simply might not like or get along with, whether in anger, or frustration. I would like to invite you to ask yourself three simple questions and be prepared to answer honestly.
- When you said whatever it was that you said, did you look upon the person you were speaking to in the knowledge that they are created in God’s image and likeness?
- Could you imagine Christ saying what you said and in the way that you said it?
- After you had said it, did you give any consideration to the impact that what you said had on that other person or were you so focussed on getting your point across?
Sometimes we say something with little regard for the damage that those words might have. If you couldn’t imagine Christ saying what you said, and if the reality is that what you said left that other person upset, and distressed…do you think that you were looking upon that person through God’s eyes? Did you see before you someone who is worthy of dignity and respect because they are created in God’s image and likeness and a child of God? Or did you lose sight of this reality in the words that you said?
It might be that the root cause of this is because you are struggling with some unresolved issue and have a need for spiritual healing. It might be that you struggle to deal with power and authority – neither of which are a right, but a privilege and a privilege to be used wisely and to the glory of God. It might be that you hold a fear and that you subconsciously project that fear onto others.
If we lose sight of that, we often find that we abuse power and subconsciously appoint ourselves as judge, jury and executioner. God’s truth does not cause people to become bound and in chains; God’s truth sets people free to be all that they are called to be in Christ. We must live in the knowledge of God’s truth, secure in the reality of his love and grace.
All of us need to be honest about where we hide behind roles in a bid for security, to allay fear or hold onto them as a means of power and control. Neither does us credit.
Christ didn’t come simply to restore the balance. Christ came to set us free from sin and death, to bring wholeness and healing, dignity and value and restore in us a vision of us being created in God’s image and likeness. We may experience dysfunctionality in our relationships with one another – our friends, our loved ones, and our brothers and sisters in Christ; but also in our relationship with God. If you are struggling with a relationship in whatever context, I invite you to bring it to the foot of the cross, bring it to the Lord in prayer.
Let’s take a few moments of silence as we think about these words.