What shapes your relational world?
That has as many answers as there are people because many influences shape how we view relationships, value them, and choose them. I know many of you will respond by sharing the perspective of introversion versus extroversion or give me a number from the popular Enneagram material out there. My clinical studies in graduate school gave me a deep dive into a variety of tools to look at these aspects of ourselves, but too often we use them as absolutes or reasons for how we do or do not respond in relationships.
If we are believers in Christ, there is something, Someone, greater that should inform our relational choices and decisions. If Christ lives within us and is radical as I noted in a previous post (pamecrement.com/2020/05/11/how-radical-are-you/) then shouldn’t our relational interactions look more like his?
I know you have heard or read the statement, “Relationships are everything.” I first read it in a book written by Dr. Tim Clinton, but others have taken credit for coining it as well.
The challenge of the statement as so many of us would nod our heads in agreement is whether or not there is evidence of it in our lives. If it is a core belief, then it will show up across the spectrum of our lives and may not look the way we initially might describe.
IF relationships are central to us, we won’t just pursue those we like and feel comfortable with, those that are more like us. We also won’t say we have passion for relationships if the only way we connect with those who are different is by formal donations or ministry projects. In those scenarios we are not moving into much of any depth as Jesus pursued relationships.
If Jesus is the model for radical relationships and that means getting to the core of things, the root of things in a relationship, then ours should resemble that.
He had relationships that were certainly deeper with his disciples who traveled and worked with Him throughout his earthly ministry. What is important to recall is the twelve He chose would likely not be on our list if we wanted to change the world. They were not leaders of the day, well-educated and trained. They were common men, rough around the edges in more than a few ways, and would likely not have passed the resume test we might write.
Yet these were his closest relationships. With them He shared the depths of his heart, emotion, and wisdom.
Time and again Jesus chose people we barely notice, let alone interact with.
Too often after we come to know Him our relationships settle into a pattern of primarily hanging out with others from our church who think like us, dress like us, share the same values as we do, and so on. There is nothing wrong with that, but do they energize us?
What made Jesus so different relationally that He would choose these 12 or take time to really be with people and go deeply into their lives beyond giving alms to the poor?
“Most of the people who are at the center of the Gospel narrative have no place in our lives. What does that tell us? Jesus took people whom you and I would mindlessly pass on the street, people we would never choose to be in the same room with, people from the very margins of society, and he placed them at the center of the narrative we call the Gospel. They came to him in a hundred guises – the sick, the poor, the despised, women, children, and sinners of every type – but in each of them Jesus saw a child of God.”
Matthew Kelly in Rediscover Jesus
Yes, we need people to do life with, care for our hearts, and support us on our journey, but is that all there is within us?
The people Jesus hung out with and spoke to along the way were outside the social norms of society of that day. Consider the list of those who were considered nothing but made it into the canon of scripture because He took note of them. That list will amaze you if you take time to review it. There is little wonder that “Gospel” means “good news.”
One example of a radical relationship was the one described in John 4. Jesus is resting by a well and we read the unfolding story of the Samaritan woman. It is quite a story indeed for many reasons. First would be that Jesus chose to speak to a woman and then she was a Samaritan in the bargain before we even get to what we learn about her lifestyle.
Many of you know that story, but don’t let that stop you from a fact Matthew Kelly points out: “This is the longest recorded conversation between Jesus and any other human being.”
I am one of those who places a high value on relationships, and they are many and varied. I have a long way to go to be as radical in them as Jesus was, but one thing I know to be true about myself – the relationships I had with students with learning problems, home problems, and layers of issues not only challenged me, but energized me.
The relationships I had with those who came to seek my counsel when I worked as a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor for more than 25 years energized me as well. They were broken in more ways than I will name, many were not readily welcomed into churches, most were bound in sin of one sort or another, but seeing the possibilities in each one if they could see it, could see what Jesus showed me, was the greatest experience I could have imagined.
Someone might say it was because I tend to be an extrovert who is more likely to be energized by people, but that was not it. It was watching as they grappled with their station, brokenness, and sin and then see the good news of the gospel transform them – not because I shared the four spiritual laws or asked the questions I know that are a part of various good evangelistic programs – because Jesus in me loved them and saw that glimpse of a child of God, spent time with them, and met them on the level ground at the foot of the cross.
I want to be relationally radical. That is when I get most excited.
If any of us really want to be radical relationally – really really – then we must remember this:
“The types of people we avoid and ignore are the types of people Jesus was most interested in.”
That ragtag group of 12 unlikely world changers, the disciples Jesus chose, over time grew to be more like Him and changed the world forever.
What the world needs now – whether it is in our neighborhood, church, business, job, or any other place – is to discover the truth of the Gospel lived out through radical relationships.
That will change the world and it will change us in the bargain.