relationships picture

So last week we started phase three of the summer series, in this portion of the series we are talking about relationships.  Last week I opened the series asking you one question that I know is on my mind a lot when it comes to relationships and that is, “Why are relationships so hard?”  It isn’t always easy to engage people, let alone engage into deep, long lasting, life giving relationships is it?  There is a reason for that, and that is because through community the issues of our own hearts are coming to the surface, some things that maybe we are ok addressing and some that we may not want to address.  It’s interesting how God uses the people around us to help us mature, and grow, and be stretched at times isn’t it?  I bet you could look around this room and see a couple people that do that very thing to you couldn’t you!

You know in scripture there are a lot of different examples of friendships that we could look at today, but I really wanted to look at this interaction between Jesus and His disciples…

John 15:9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit-fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 17 This is my command: Love each other.  NIV

So to give you a little context to what is happening right now, this is all happening at the Passover feast, right before Jesus begins his journey to the cross.  He has just let the disciples know that one of them will betray him (and really outs Judas as the betrayer to everyone), and he has told Peter that he would deny him three times.  He knows that he is moments away from fulfilling the plan that God has for his life…he has watched Judas leave to go betray him, and knows that Peter will deny him…and that the disciples will soon run for their lives and hide in fear.  Some friends right…I mean with friends like these, who needs enemies right?!?!?  Yet Jesus continues to walk with these men, love on these men, and declares them his friends.  Yes he was their teacher.  The Rabbi that was their leader.  They did what he asked, and were learning from him but here he sits at the end of his life with some incredible words for this interesting group of men…you are my friends.  I chose you.  I appointed you.  Please go and share the message of God with the world and do what I’ve asked…love each other!

I don’t know about you, but I can have a hard time loving others, and engaging friendships over petty things.  Like a lot pettier things than you are going to betray me and turn me over to die a gruesome death.  Yet Jesus sits at the table with Peter, Judas, and the rest of this bunch of imperfect people and seems to have a love for them that looks past all of their issues, all of their massive imperfections, and he simply loves them…regardless of all their junk.  It is humbling to see the peace, and love that Jesus has towards these men even as he is being turned over to die.  He knows that Peter is about to go on a profanity laced tangent denying he even knows him.  He knows that Judas just walked out of the room to turn him in, to die a horrible death for a measly bag of money.  Yet Jesus sits with this band of imperfect people and calls them his friends.

Man oh man, I have had big blowups in relationships over some really dumb things.  I have messed up a lot and I keep thinking about this story from two perspectives.  First from Jesus’ perspective how can he continue to love, invest in these men when they seem to screw up so often.  What a love that Jesus has in his heart, which by the way is the same love he tells us to have for others.  The second perspective is from the vantage point of the disciples, how amazing must it be to screw up over and over again, and know that this man continues to love on you just like he did before the latest mess you have made…wouldn’t it be awesome to have relationships like this?  Think of the freedom, the peace, the grace in that.

I know, I know, it isn’t that easy for you and I because we are not God in skin like Jesus was!  I understand that fully, but we are spending our lives trying to be like Jesus in every way right?

1 John 2:3 We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. 4 The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: 6 Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did. NIV

So we must obey His commands, what was Jesus’ command that we read earlier again?

John 15:17 This is my command: Love each other.  NIV

So if we claim to be like Jesus we must walk as Jesus walked, we must do what Jesus did and what did he do?  He loved on people.  Did he challenge people, yes he did.  Did he engage religion and give the religious scholar a hard time…absolutely…but I’d argue even that was because of his deep love for them to know the truth.  Jesus loved others and commands you to do the same.

Can you imagine engaging into relationships where you were given love and grace regardless of the mistakes, and issues that you make?  Can you imagine the life that you could have if you were in a community of people who could engage into relationships like Jesus did?  How free and how light could you live knowing that regardless of your issues and glaring imperfections that your friends would sit across the table from you and just love you regardless of all of your issues.  That sounds amazing doesn’t it!?!?

We spoke about this last week but this kind of loving and life giving relationships can be had, but it starts with us working on the condition of our own hearts.  The reality is that Jesus was mature, he was complete, he was without sin and he was ready for relationships.  You and I, well let’s just say we aren’t perfect.  We mess up, but quite frankly we aren’t going to be perfect like Christ on this side of eternity because we are people but we can live our lives each day in such a way that we can move towards holiness, drawing closer in our own friendship with Jesus, and allow the overflow of our relationship with God to flow into our friendships, and our community.  So Jesus was ready to engage relationships and did so in an incredible way!  It’s inspiring, it’s pure love, and it’s the kind of friendship that I know I would love to have in my own life.  It all starts with me figuring some things out about me, which really leads me to the question of the day.

Are you ready to be in a relationship?

So this is the question that Kim and I are going to tackle today.  Are we ready to be in a relationship?  How we are going to do this is by looking at four principles from the book “Winning with People” by John Maxwell that I referenced some last week.

So are you ready to be in relationships?  Well, the way we begin figuring that out is by looking in the mirror and taking a good look at who you are.

Taking a look in the mirror:

I don’t know about you but this isn’t always an easy thing to do.  It’s often easier to see the issues in the people around us than to take the time to see and be aware of and take responsibility for our own issues!  Jesus talked about this very thing…

Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.  NIV

Don’t you just wish Jesus could be a little clearer?  This is hilarious.  Jesus is saying don’t look past your issues, take a good look in the mirror!  You are worried about some dust in that persons eye when you are walking around with a two by four hanging out of yours!

The reality is that many of us our very unaware of who we are and this is a very dangerous thing when it comes to our relationships.  If we are unaware of who we are we can damage relationships and hurt others.  The way to change that is to look in the mirror and take the time to get to know you.  Being self-aware and taking responsibility for our own actions is a really big deal but this seems kind of opposite of what our culture tells us today isn’t it?

We live in a world where we don’t have to take responsibility for anything do we?  I mean you can sue McDonald’s because the coffee’s hot and you burned your tongue.  You can break into someone’s home and end up suing them for falling and breaking your leg…we have all heard the stories of ridiculous lawsuits, and excuses as to why we act the way we act…it’s all nonsense.  Our kids don’t do anything wrong right, it’s the coaches fault, or the teachers fault, certainly not little Johnny’s fault!  Our culture is not screaming out that we are accountable for anything about ourselves.  Our culture screams out that we are a victim somehow but we must look in the mirror and take responsibility for who we are.

Do you want to know if you are ready for relationships?  Then the first question you need to ask yourself is, “Have I looked in the mirror and taken responsibility for who I am.”

So if that is the first question I need to ask myself to see if I’m ready for relationships, the second becomes this, “Do I hurt people or am I easily hurt by people?”

Hurt People Hurt People:

We talk about this a lot here at MRC when we talk about relationships but in the end hurt people, hurt people.  This is a really important thing for you to understand and to keep in your mind as you enter into and engage people.

We live in a broken and busted up world.  There is pain in this world and there are many hurting people on this planet.  The reality is that these hurt people often hurt people.  These hurt people aren’t often just hurt by people but they often hurt themselves.  This is something we must keep in the proper perspective…Hurt people hurt people…and we live in a world full of hurting people.

Here’s the key:

As you interact with others, remember this: anytime a person’s response is larger than the issue at hand, the response is almost always about something else.  When you keep this in its proper perspective that hurt people hurt people you don’t take things so personally, you can look past the person to the problem, and maybe then you can respond in such a way that you don’t add to the hurts of the hurting person.

Go back for a moment to the story of Jesus, sitting there with his friends.  Can’t you see the heart of Jesus, sitting at the table moments before his death looking deep into the hearts of those busted up humans, and finding such love and compassion for them…regardless of all of their imperfections.  His heart for them came out, he loved others with full knowledge that these men were hurting, busted up people.

So the first thing we must do to engage into relationships is to take a look in the mirror and take responsibility for who we are.  The second thing we have to do is to keep this perspective, that hurt people hurt people.  Now Kim is going to talk to us about how we react to the small things in relationships, what John Maxwell refers to as the Hammer Principle.

You know when it comes right down to it, relationships are a really big deal.  This is why we are calling this series on relationships, True Holiness.  It’s because in the end you just can’t fake this.  The condition of your heart will come out in your relationships, and as you bump into people in community.

So today Kim and I are trying to visit this one idea that we need to be ready to be in relationships.  You will know if you are ready or not when you ask yourself these four questions.

1.  Have I looked in the mirror and am I willing to take responsibility for who I am?

2.  Do I hurt people, or am too easily hurt by them?

3.  Do I overact to small things in a relationship situation?

4.  Do I lift people up or do I tear them down?

That last question is a big one because there are some people that add something to life and we enjoy those types of people.  There are some people who take things from our lives and we learn to just tolerate them.  Some people just make you better and we absolutely value these types of people in our lives.  Some people divide things and tear people apart and we really try to avoid this type of person.

We need to be the kinds of people who are lifting others up in everything we do so let me ask you do you lift others up, or do you tear people down?  This is a big deal question.  Check out what Paul says here…

Ephesians 4:29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  NIV

Jesus modeled for us what it means to be in true friendships.  He sat a table moments before enduring the most vicious of all deaths possible, he let Judas know he knew what he was doing, he told Peter that he would deny him three times in the next few hours.  Jesus knew the issues, the sins, the wounds, and the imperfections of these men.  He knew that they were about to scatter and bail on him. Yet he looks by all of it and loves them.  Think of the impact this kind of relationship could have on your own life and what impact it had to have on these men.

Well, it’s our job to live like Jesus…and that can be a little intimidating can’t it?  Because we aren’t God in skin, and we will screw this up from time to time, but Jesus really gave you the road map to life as he lived it in 4 simple words.  Love God, Love others.  Take all of the complexities, the religious rules and regulations, the theological debates, the intimidation of having to live like God lives and put them aside…simply love God and love others.

Relationships are a really big deal.  Community is a big deal.  Yes it is messy, yes it is difficult at times, and yes at some point you could be hurt…but it is essential that you engage people in a real way, today we ask you are you ready for relationships?  Well only you know the answer to that question.  For some of us we haven’t looked in the mirror at our own issues, and we need to…I told you last week who we are determines how we view others.  We need to remember that hurt people, well they hurt people…and unfortunately we live in a world of hurting people.  When you start to realize how hurt someone is, you stop thinking about what an idiot they are for how they are acting and start to feel for them.  You also need to ask yourself are you overreacting to small things inside relationships, like what Kim was talking to us about today…and lastly we need to be the kind of people that are making others better…if you are tearing people down all the time, something is going on with you that needs to be looked into.

It’s amazing, Jesus sat with a group of men full of issues and loved them, regardless of their issues, hurts, and imperfections and he asked us to live like he lived.  So, where are you at today?  Are you ready to engage relationships in a real way?  If the answer is yes, that is great, all Jesus asks you to do is love…if the answer is no then you need to ask yourself why that is.  It’s in relationships that we really find out a lot about who we are, it’s in relationships that the condition of our heart comes out…which is why they are so essential.

So the question is are you ready to engage people in a real way, or not?