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:
(7) Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. (8) He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (9) 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. (10) 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. (11) 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:
(19) We love Him because He first loved us. (20) 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? (21) 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:
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.
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: