If we are going to be a relational community, it will entail that we not forsake becoming a redemptive community. The example is set for us within the Godhead, where we see the mutual relationship between the Father, the Son and the Spirit and as they relate and function as a form of “family” or “community” we see the pattern unfold that demonstrates not only healthy and edifying relationship, but also relationships that intentionally move toward being redemptive not only in outlook but in actual expression.
Some will debate that I am addressing the Godhead and that there is no way we can truly understand or even begin to truly apply what we do know and learn from observing what we have discovered about how the Godhead expresses life in community, never mind trying to emulate the redemptive aspects of this kind of relational expression.
I will grant you that it is indeed difficult to truly grasp, but if we can receive anything by revelation and understanding from the Spirit, since He is the Spirit of truth and reveals truth to those who diligently seek to know, I would call on each one of us to be seekers not only of truth but of the One who is “the” Truth. If we seek to know His heart, He will reveal it to us, even in such matters as these, concerning issues of redemption.
For some the very idea of redemption strikes up images of Mel Gibson's The Passion. Redemption tends to have a very limited definition. But, the language of the New Testament is replete with uses of commercial terms, and one of which is the word, “redeem” or redemption. It conveys the commercial aspect of buying back, or making payment to get back something of value. Tie this into the love of God and His desire for relationship; we see that God indeed is the epitome of expression when we speak of relational redemptive aspects of relationship. God had tied such value to people, that He sees people as worth the cost of being redeemed, but not like a penny merchant, but through the life, suffering, death, resurrection and glorification of His Son Jesus. It was through the blood of the Son that payment was made to appease God's own wrath at OUR sin. As the old song goes, 'We owed a debt we could not pay, He paid a debt He did not owe' Such is the love, the redeeming love of God and His desire for relationship with people.
Here we have before us the Godhead demonstrating the restorative redemptive nature of love to man. Here the relationships of the Godhead intertwine to reveal the heart of the Father and the love He has for humanity. When the disciples asked Jesus to reveal the Father, He simply stated that having seen Him and seen His works, that they had ALREADY seen the Father. Such unity, such agreement, such ONENESS in relationship are the Father, Son and Spirit, that the motto of the Three Musketeers could be their very own, 'All for One and One for all!' Indeed they mutually express the heart, and vision of redeeming love and deep passionate relationship that should be reflected in the body of Christ.
Paul who was sent out with the message of the gospel of the Kingdom (root meaning of an apostle is to be “sent out with a message”), knew that the body of Christ should reflect and express the Head of the body, Jesus Himself (See Ephesians 4) and that as the saints matured in the Son, they would be transformed from glory to glory (Romans 8). Paul knew that we as believers ALREADY reign in heavenly places (Ephesians) and that as the bride (Ephesians 5) we not only reign but also experience the fullness of life in intimacy through our UNION in Him.
This is the essence of our relational life in the Son. Paul also believed that we ought to not only experience and express the love relationship, but that this relationship should be redemptive in nature. We have been made new creatures in Christ in order to love and embrace not only the Lord but others who come into the Kingdom and those who have yet to enter the Kingdom. Most of us know these truths pretty well, but the nature of redemptive relationship has about it overtures that are difficult at times to deal with.
HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH DIFFICULT PEOPLE?
I am sure you have heard that question before. I even have a couple of books on my shelf with that either as the title or the subtitle. One is a church leadership book, another is a counseling book, and the other is a secular people management book. Three different sources dealing with the same issue, difficult people. It is always easier to love the lovely and the attractive people (I am not referring to physical attraction here). We have little difficulty dealing with polite, courteous people and gifted people who we either want to get to know or desire to engage in some kind or relationship or enterprise with. But these people can become 'ugly' pretty fast and difficult to deal with. Issues and personality times arise insinuations and all of a sudden what seemed pretty good becomes pretty awful. Our 'darlings' are all of a sudden 'difficult'!
Hot Buttons Usually Mean “MY Buttons”
These people, as much as we don't want to admit it push the hot buttons for us, which is usually all about us, and rarely about them. Hard to admit it at times. It is not conceited to state that it is 'all about me' in these situations, for they usually are, about us, and our perceptions, our understanding, our conflicts, our issues, and on anon it goes. But I want you to know that this is PERFECTLY NORMAL.
We are dealing with a humanity that is flawed by the fall. We are dealing with people like ourselves. SO in looking at redemptive relationships within a context of simple church, I think we need to be considering several things that will help us to navigate potential pitfalls.
1.Jesus Gatherings think MICRO
In simple communities we need to always keep in mind we are dealing with really small groups of people here. We will notice the warts and the beauty marks more quickly and more readily that we would in the traditional church gatherings we have known. It usually does not take long to get a feel of where the difficult relationships are going to be. SO how we think from the ground up is important. SO think micro, small. Think that this is as small as it gets and that in the long run, we cannot run away. If we do, we usually take our problems with us.
So while many of us love the relationships we have in relational communities, we equally dislike the problems, and the 'problem people' that come along with them. I remember asking my pastor buddy Tim how things were going after three years of pasturing. He replied, “Great”! I love preaching, and teaching, and discipleship and all that. Its just...' I said, 'Just what Tim?' And replied, 'I love the ministry, except for the people!' (True story, from encounter with a friend).
Mike defines what many of us feel when it comes to people we know and we ought to love but have a difficult time loving and embracing, especially so, when we have gone through issues, and through perceived betrayals and upheavals. Mike pastured a church of a couple hundred people and this is how he felt. Now micros size it, and think of ten people in your living room! Ouch! It may be difficult dealing with it all, but if we realize that it is small, and that these people are part of our small world, it will give us a sense of perspective, and perhaps motivate us to work toward redeeming rather than toward running away!
2.Jesus Gatherings think Redemptively
Many people would rather think of ways to get out than ways to seek to build relationship and deal with the issues. I believe one way to get refocused is to think about what God would do; you know the old WWJD saying. Ask the Spirit what you ought to do to redeem the relationship. One thing to consider is that to redeem it, you will have to let it go. You will have to take your hands off and give the relationship to God.
A lot of our hurts exacerbate simply because we refuse to let it go, and refuse to let go of the pain and the hurt associated with it. Please listen to me; it really is not worth holding on to. It makes us bitter and makes us not want to trust others again. It makes us angry, and it exposes the very areas of our inner lives that need redeeming! So think redemptive and then start praying and asking the Lord what you ought to do to see Him do what He needs to do to redeem it. It is never easy but it certainly may be the best thing to work toward. The other side of it is, the Lord may be transitioning you from a situation to another one. Relax and try to maintain an amicable relationship, for the Lord will work on the issues in your own heart as well as the other people.
3.Jesus Gatherings build “Transitional Relationships”?
I have come to some conclusions of late about the kinds of relationships we have. I have to tell you that I would like all my relationships to be good and real, but these kinds of relationships do not exist. All relationships are 'transitional' and they change with the ebb and flow of time and space and circumstances of life. The relationships change as we change. Grant it there are those relationships that seem to transcend space and time and they seem to stand still and you are able to pick back up again from time to time. This is an illusion.
What happens is that our perception is that these are lasting relationships, but what is lasting, and what is the elasticity that holds the relationship over time is the common elements of experience you share with the people involved. Last year in May I met with some friends of mine. Some I had last seen at my daughter's funeral in1993, and some at my wedding in 1983, and some I had not seen since1982. They were my army buddies. I went back to be part of the passing out parade of the retiring RSM of my former infantry battalion. I had been his training NCO in boot camp in 1981. He wanted to acknowledge those that had helped to shape him as a man and as a soldier. He publicly acknowledged me for contributing to his life. What connected me to Junior and all the other guys was our common bond in our military lives together, and it was bound in space and time to 1974 to 1983. That was all we talked about, with the few references to what we were doing today and our marriages and families and such. But what connected us was the bond of our common past TOGETHER.
Now while I reconnected and it was nice to reconnected, those relationships will never be same now, but they are the same, when we reflect on the past. Our relationships are always in transition of change. Transition is not bad for it helps us; especially in the simple church communities we enjoy being a part of. It is of great import to grasp the nature of transition and change. We will have varying degrees of relationship with different people. We can be intimate with our spouses and really close with some people, and distant from others. We call some 'dear friends' and some 'passing acquaintances'. We do that for good reason, for we recognize the different relationships we have. The French language even differentiates in the pronouns used in the verb tenses. Those who are close to you, you call 'tu' (you) and those who are professionals or unknown or not close to you, you refer to them as 'vous', which is considered polite, but a distant pronoun, never confused with the friendly and cozy 'tu'!
I have discovered in this journey that I want to recognize the transitions of relationship, in order to maintain good and open relationships with those I have known. There are some, and we cannot help those, for the writer to Hebrews said in Hebrews 12, 'If at all possible live at peace with all men,' and I take comfort in that I am not alone in feeling a lack of that peace in relationships with other believers I have known.
It doesn't justify me in the least, but aids me to know the commonality that exists through humanity. It is difficult to live at peace and difficult to retain cordial relations with people. Transitions allow us to move to the place of safety when we need to find a place to deal with the issues of our hearts. When we hurt it is usually a reflection of the issues in our own hearts and issues of character the Lord wants to deal with. It is simply more that has to die and more that needs to be redeemed. Transitions allow us to find that space we need to be alone with God and to get things from His perspective.
Transitions allow us to grow and develop relationships and realize that realness cannot happen over night. Realness takes time, and what we desire means give and take in times of transition. There are a few people that remain from the old HC, and some I have grown apart from the few times we have connected. They are in a different place than I am, and I want to cultivate relationships that are real and not just have a meeting in my home. So there is not too much in common with some people anymore.
However, there are those, M. and T. and C. where there is a common past in relationship, and there is the ongoing of maintaining the transitions of life in relationship, to the point where we like to connect and like to explore perhaps what God might desire in our relationships with one another. This means not putting limits or aspirations on the relationships, but recognizing that each one of us is in a different transition and different place in relationship. This is neither good nor bad, but in redemptive relationships, we realize in order to be redeeming, we need to recognize the importance of these transitions, the ebb and flow of life and that the relationships if we work at them for the sake of the relationships we may be surprised how much the Lord redeems in them.
4.Jesus Gatherings think “AUTHENTIC”
I remember going shopping with my granddad, a big burly Scots Irish fellow, and he would say to the sales help, 'Is this the genuine article?' This is the essence of being authentic, being the genuine article. If we are going to be redemptive, we need to not only look for people to be genuine, but WE ourselves need to be genuine, genuine with God, and genuine with one another. This means that in relational communities we become more transparent and more open and sincere in whom we are as people. We need to develop as regular families develop. Over time the genuine article reveals itself, butut entails spending time together. It means playing and having fun, and experiencing the joys and thrills of life and also the trials and travails together. We all know that it is when times are difficult and trying that we discover whom our friends truly are. Perhaps we need to also discover who our friends in our relational communities are before trials come.
5. Jesus Gatherings think 'INTENTIONAL'
People have little difficulty in the area of intentionality of ministry, where there is a focus to minister to the needs of people, but intentionality in ministry places people as the object of 'our' ministry. The relationship with people needs to move toward an intentionality of relationship.
If we are going to be redemptive in your relationships, we need the Lord's perspective, and that means we need to be INTENTIONAL in our relationships. We need to be focused on the Lord redeeming those unlovely areas in our lives and in the lives of others. We need to intend, with our hearts and our minds and our actions to move toward redeeming relationships. As we move in our simple relational communities toward wholeness and completeness in Christ, we will discover all along, that the Lord Jesus INTENDED that we desire to truly be One in Him and with the other saints He has knitted gusto.
So, when you work toward developing relationships that are redemptive, look to these things to help you focus. Think micro, and know that the Lord loves to knit Himself to small groups of people and deal with the heart issues of each person. Think redemptive as God thinks when you look at the issues being stirred up. Think transitionally, so that you will not be frustrated by the ebb and flow of relationships in your life and in the lives of others in your simple community. Think authentically so that you will be the genuine article to others, setting a model for them to genuine with the Lord and with you as well. Think intentionally, that it is worth all the work and sacrifice to intend with a sincere heart to see the Lord redeem the most unlovable in order to fulfill His purposes in your heart and the hearts of all those who gather in His Name in your simple relational communities.
-Author wishes to be anonymous
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