A place where ideas stir the waters of our mind.

Friday, September 26, 2014

What is Healing Part 4

What is Healing? Part 4

Our Relational Design: Sharing Life Together

In our last blog, we began studying the scriptures to reveal God’s relational design for our lives and discovered that from the beginning, we are created to enjoy loving relationship with Him. Since our Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are an eternal, joyful, loving, relational Trinity – and created us in their image and likeness – everything about us is designed to be just as relational! 

Today, we’ll continue by taking a look at how God intends the life and love we share with Him to flow into our relationships with others.  As I pondered this topic, I realized that this subject is just too big for one blog, so I decided to spread our discussion about God’s design for our relationships with others over several weeks. 

God’s Love Initiates

According to God’s design, our relationships with each other work best when they reflect the characteristics of the relationship the Father, Son and Spirit share together. 

It’s important to note that experiencing this type of relationship with others is only possible when we are connecting with God in Christ to receive His love.  It’s impossible to live in this kind of love – and share it with others – if we haven’t received it first. We simply can’t give what we haven’t received. John makes the connection between receiving God’s love – and our ability to love others clear in 1Jn 4:7-11:

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love (in Greek, love and keep on loving) one another. (NKJV, parenthesis added).

He emphasizes this theme later in the same chapter when he writes:

We love Him because He first loved us. If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.  (1Jn 4:19-21, NKJV).

These passages show a clear sequence: 
  1. God’s loves us first and takes the initiative to show us love.
  2. We receive His love and life.
  3. We respond to His love with love.
  4. We relate to others with the same love. 

Reflecting God’s Love

From the Greek texts, we also learn something seriously exciting!
In these passages of Scripture, John uses the word (agape and variants) to describe God’s love for us and the love God asks us to share with others. The New Testament uses this word to describe God’s unconditional love, and is different from the kinds of love that express feelings, warm affection or even a kiss. God is not just asking us to be friendly, affectionate or nice to others in response to His love.  God asks that we respond to His love by sharing the exact same type of love with those around us.

It blows my mind to think that this kind of love is what the Trinity experienced together before creation.  It is even more incredible to understand that Father, Son and Spirit are generously pouring out that love to us today so that we can freely receive it, live in it and share it with others. 

But wait…it gets even better!

You are I are created with a relational design to experience and share this kind of love. This means that everything about us functions best – according to God’s design – when we live in love with God and each other. As apprentices of Jesus, we are all in the process of learning to continually receive love, respond to love and share love. God designed us and intended for us to live this way with Him and with each other.

God’s Design Specs and the “3 R’s”

The relational nature of our design is not just a “nice spiritual truth” or interesting point of discussion we can tuck away in a file drawer under “good things to think about later.” We can only grow to experience the full capacity of God’s original design for us when the “3 R’s” (receiving, responding and relating to God and others in love) are alive and active in our lives. To function within God’s design parameters, we must be interactively experiencing the 3 R’s as we relate to God and to others. When any of the 3 R’s are missing, we are functioning outside of our design specifications – and that means that we malfunction and break down. 

We will never understand healing and God’s desire to heal if we miss His relational design for our lives – and the malfunctions and breakdowns that occur when we operate outside of our design specs. 

Coming Attractions

My next blog we want to answer the question, “Is the relational design for our lives something that is ideal (but can’t really exist) – or is it real (something we can experience as part of a “normal” Christian life?  You don’t want to miss this discussion as we move forward to establish a new understanding of healing.

Remember, our purpose in this series of blogs is to move towards a new definition of healing that:
  • Is broad enough to include physical healing as well as healing for those who are hurting on the inside.
  • Uses terminology explicitly found in Scripture to end the “is it Biblical or not” controversy.
  • Proactively focuses on healthy growth and maturity, and avoids a self-limiting emphasis on pain, problems and suffering. 
  • Is Invitational, and helps all members of church community recognize the significant role they play in healing and maturity.
  • Multiplies easily from one person to another (self-propagates).

Friday, September 19, 2014

What is Healing? Part 3

The Reality of Relationships

Our Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are an eternal, joyful, loving, relational Trinity. Created in God’s image and likeness, everything about us is relational too! He designed us so that we function best when we are joyfully connected to Him and to others, and learn to see ourselves through these eyes of joy. That’s why relationships are the foundation for life, growth and healing.

As we move towards a fresh definition of healing, I want to spend my next several blogs exploring God’s relational design for our lives. We’ll explore why both scripture and neuroscience agree that relationships are foundational for life and growth. We will also discover why joy-based relationships are essential for healing and equipping in the Body of Christ. I will also discuss the role that grace plays in healing of all kinds.

Remember, we are working towards a new definition of healing that must be:
  • Broad enough to include physical healing as well as healing for those who are hurting on the inside.
  • Use terminology explicitly found in Scripture to end the “is it Biblical or not” controversy.
  • Proactively focus on healthy growth and maturity, and avoid a self-limiting emphasis on pain, problems and suffering. 
  • Invitational, and help all members of church community recognize the significant role they play in healing and maturity.
  • Multiply easily from one person to another (self-propagate).

Today, our journey begins with a look at what scripture has to say about God’s relational design for our lives and His desire for life giving connections with us.

From the beginning

We need to look no further than the book of Genesis to discover God’s relational design for our lives. In Genesis 1:26-27, we read:

Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (NKJV).

When God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness”, we catch a glimpse of God’s eternal relational nature. Always in harmony, each member of The Trinity moves in everlasting unity and love. There is no strife, no jealousy, no selfish ambition. The Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit do not argue about “who gets to be in charge and make decisions now.” The Father never has to referee arguments between Jesus and the Holy Spirit about anything.

You are I are created in the image and likeness of a relational God to be just as relational!

The divine attributes of God revealed to us in Jesus are present at creation. Love, joy, peace, wisdom, compassion, mercy, patience and humility pour into our design. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of God’s throne, and He weaves a hunger for these into our design. The drive to share the life, character and gifts God has given us with others in new places is part of our God-given spiritual DNA. The “one another” passages in the New Testament describe what it looks like when we follow Jesus and share His relationship with each other.

The relational nature of our design means that our deepest desires and needs are for lasting connections with God and others that reflect His character and nature. God’s design means that you and I literally function best in these relationships. God never intended us to live an isolated life, and living in a relational vacuum is antithetical to His design for us.

The greatest commandments are relational

When reading the books of the Law and the Prophets in the Old Testament, many Christians mistakenly conclude that God’s biggest concern is making people behave – and then “smiting” those that do not. Nothing could be further from the truth! The law and prophets proclaim the heart of a relational God who desires loving connections with His people. He also desires that people who follow Him live in love with each other.

In chapter 22, Mathew’s Gospel records a fascinating interaction between Jesus and one of the Pharisees, who were the religious leaders of his day. The Pharisees were experts in the details of Old Testament law, (as well as the hundreds of other commands they created) and were usually much more concerned with rules and behavior than they were with love for God or others. In verses 36-40, Mathew reports the interaction between Jesus and a Pharisee who wanted to know which commandment in the law was the greatest

"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"
This is the first and greatest commandment.
And the second is like it: 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.'
On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." (Mat 22:36-40, NKJV)

What a relational response and revelation of God’s heart as revealed in the Old Testament! Here Jesus tells us that God’s intent for us is loving relationship with Him and with each other. Furthermore, Jesus is telling us that everything in Old Testament Law and in the prophets can only truly be understood when approached from the understanding that God’s greatest desire is for relationships of love.

Everything about us – and scripture – testifies to our relational design and God’s desire that our relationship with Him would be reflected in our interactions with each other.

Finding real life in real relationship

Have you ever wondered how to find real, authentic life? Volumes have been written on the subject and the “Self-Help” sections of bookstores are packed with answers. Today, people have become wealthy by packaging trendy new techniques to help people enhance their lives. Christians have also explored this question extensively, and devised many ways to help people make a “profession of faith” in Jesus to find eternal life.

Perhaps nowhere is the answer to this question expressed more clearly than in John 17:3. Not surprisingly, we discover that God’s answer is relational, and consistent with His relational design for our lives found throughout scripture:

“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” John 17:3, (NKJV).

The relational nature of this statement becomes absolutely clear when we look to the original Greek that is translated “that they may know you” in English. In Greek, this portion of the verse means “should keep on knowing,” which indicates an active, growing and ever-deepening relationship with God in Christ. It means that we find eternal life only in an ongoing relationship with God in Christ. Eternal life, it seems, is much more than a one-time profession of faith, or mere intellectual assent to a “Christian” belief system. You and I find life and are restored to God’s design only in relationship!

There is much more to say about God’s love and our relational design, especially John’s declaration, “We love Him because He first loved us,” (I John 4:19, NKJV). Here, we find that love is our relational response to God’s initiating love. However, if I pursue each scripture describing our relational design, and God’s desire for relationships with us, I would never complete this blog!

A preview of coming attractions

In my next blog, we’ll explore how God designed us to relate to each other. We will discover how joyful relationships with other followers of Jesus help us heal, become equipped and grow in maturity as we connect to each other in love.

In future blogs, we’ll also look why Grace is foundational for healing, consider what neuroscience is learning about our relational design.

All Photos: Thinkstock.com