Just as with the new birth, relationships that come from God are not a matter of human decision or husband’s will. That is, they are not calculated or contrived at a human level. They are born of Spiritual passion – not human negotiation. They are born of the Passion of Christ in the crucible of new love – not in the pottage of human agenda.
To know what relationships in Christ look like, all we need do is look at Christ and what His relationships cost Him. This is how we know what love is. In short, relationships that come from God can and will get you killed.
I return to this subject once again because there are two very costly mistakes that undifferentiated passion makes. One has to do with the flesh connection, i.e. a reliance on the flesh. The other has to do with a failure to learn the relational lessons that God has built into old creation life. In a sense they both have to do with the flesh; the first has to do with the foolhardiness of the flesh, and the other its inability to see the invisible truth built into created things. On the one hand we are to put no confidence in the flesh, and on the other, we need to learn the invisible things about God that he has built into the created things – things like family, in this instance.
Over the years of living in “relationships that come from God” I learned some painful lessons. The first painful lesson was not to put any stock in the flesh connection. It was one thing to see and appreciate this connection in the old covenant where flesh was only a shadow of things to come. Here, for instance is perhaps the strongest statement of the kind of relationship we are speaking about, only in the flesh: “I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than the love of women.”
This is certainly a very powerful statement, and one which crosses gender lines. I believe that the love between David and Jonathan was mutual, so that we can read this verse in the following sense, “the love we shared, was to me, wonderful…”
Here’s where it goes bad in a New Testament context:
“David asked, ‘Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?’ Now there was a servant of Saul’s household named Ziba. They summoned him to appear before David, and the king said to him, ‘Are you Ziba?’ ‘At your service,’ he replied. The king asked, ‘Is there no one still alive from the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?’ Ziba answered the king, ‘There is still a son of Jonathan; he is lame in both feet.” 2 Samuel 9:1-3
This was certainly an appropriate relational kindness under the Old Covenant. The problem under the New Covenant is that it does not work in the Spirit, because it is rooted in flesh and blood relationship. Time and again, over the years I tried to be there for the flesh and blood relatives of those with whom I had spiritual relationships, and it was a disaster on every occasion. Flesh wars against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh. The cost over the years has been very high for me personally as well as for my family.
The next very costly mistake has to do with the possibility of moral failure. It was only recently that I saw that the Apostle Paul dealt with this as a matter of first importance. His first attempt apparently fell on deaf ears: “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.” – 1st Corinthians 5:9-11
Apparently they didn’t get it. In fact they were so far from getting it that they were proud of their tolerance for immoral conduct and people. The previous letter he mentioned, that we don’t have, must have been written after Paul’s first missionary journey to Corinth. Paul was still very much in a learning curve. First time out, he went with Barnabas and Mark, and didn’t make it as far as Corinth. The second time out, Paul had Timothy with him, and his learning curve was much more effective where Paul’s own understanding of relationships was concerned.
Paul saw things in the fellowship at Corinth, that it apparently took him some time to process. The closeness or intimacy of Christian fellowship can be so close that it becomes an occasion for moral failure. This problem was so important that it was addressed in what we know as Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, as well as in a previous letter that has been lost to history.
In any case, the issue has such high priority that only Acts and Romans precede it in the chronology of the scriptures. Both Acts and Romans set the context: Acts with the historical order of Paul’s ministry, and Romans with moral order and context of the Kingdom of God.
Paul finishes his rebuke of this problem at Corinth with the following:
“What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you,” – 1st Corinthians 5:12 & 13.
How then are we to escape even the appearance of sexual immorality in the face of such great salvation, such great intimacy of fellowship, and such relational oneness? The law is no match for such a high calling. Only the invisible things of God revealed in the things created provide us any hope of understanding such passion in the context of human relationships: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse,” Romans 1:20.
The question in the first instance is, “How does God do life?” And in the final version, the more abundant version of life, the question remains the same. We are without excuse if we don’t get how God does life from the created things, for this is how we have an idea how God does life in the new creation. God puts the solitary in families, and this is what Jesus promises us in his new creation – 100-fold of family – all conditional on our willingness to allow the Lord to change our priorities.
The old creation teaches us how it should be between mothers and sons, fathers and daughters, brothers and sisters, mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and brothers and sisters. All of these relationships in the first instance are nothing if they are without passion – passion perfectly appropriate – and without moral failure in every case. Family is where we learn how it is to be in life together without moral failure. This is also where we learn about appropriate content, not only for each kind of relationship, but appropriate to every situation, circumstance, and season. If we don’t get it here, Romans tells us that then we will be turned over to perversity – moral failure:
“Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them,” – Romans 1:24-33.
In short, life makes the boundaries of intimacy so clear that we are without excuse if we miss them. I know this is very hard hitting, but now as then moral failure in the context of supposedly Christian fellowship is epidemic.
- By Jay Ferris, original posting April, 2012