The Gospel Changes Everything (Pt. 10): Relationships

We're in a series where we're seeing how the gospel of Jesus affects every area of our lives. Each post will look at how the truth of the gospel changes how we view a certain aspect of life and its implications in our lives.

In this blog series we've been trying to show practical application for the gospel. Many of us who've been at Hiawatha Church for a while do understand the good news of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection but it can be tough work to understand how the gospel actually affects the different areas of our life. That is the goal of this series: to begin to show specific examples of the gospel affecting all the areas of our lives. None of these posts will be exhaustive by any means but we hope they'll begin to help us see the power of the gospel to change every area of our lives. 

"The gospel [in the New Testament] is regularly presented not only as truth to be received and believed, but the very power of God to transform (see 1 Corinthians 2, 1 Thessalonians 2:4, Romans 1:16-17)...One of the most urgently needed things today is a careful treatment of how the gospel, biblically and richly understood, ought to shape everything we do in the local church, all of our ethics, all of our priorities." -D.A. Carson. 

The power of the gospel transforms how we view relationships. Apart from the gospel, our temptation is either to value relationship too much: they give us our full identity and worth (or what Tim Keller calls moralism). Or we value relationships too little: I'm self-sufficient and independent and I need no one (or what Keller calls relativism). 

"Moralism can...cause people to procure love as the way to earn salvation; gaining love convinces them that they are worthy persons. This, in turn, often creates codependency-you must save yourself by saving others. On the other hand, much relativism reduces love to a negotiated partnership for mutual benefit. You relate only as long as it does not cost you anything. Without the gospel, the choice is to selfishly use others or to selfishly let yourself be used by others." -Tim Keller. 

We can probably sympathize with both of these and maybe are tempted today to view relationships in both these ways. But the gospel changes how we view our relationship with others. No longer do we need others to give us an identity (as a mom, a friend, a boss, etc.) because we are given a new identity in Christ, an identity connected to someone who will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). 

In the gospel, we've been chosen, accepted, desired, and kept in Christ, all by God! So we don't need to look outside to other relationships for that identity and meaning. It sure is great to have a church family, friends, siblings, parents, colleagues, and kids love us and want us in their lives. But because of the gospel, we don't have to use those relationships. And if for some sad reason we lose any of those relationships, we're not devastated or destroyed because we know the God of the universe calls us his adopted and wanted child!

And no longer do we need to fear relationships that cost us. Through the gospel we can now move towards people who won't reciprocate our love (at least not at first). Just as Christ denied his own preferences, desires, and even his own rights to become our friend, we too can move towards people and demonstrate that powerful Christlike love. 

I recently was talking to a couple in our Community Group about this. We were sharing how because of the gospel we're able to give up our preferences and wants when we gather. Every aspect of our time together doesn't have to focus on me, what I want, or even what I need. We can spend a whole Community Group gathering pouring into other people, sharing our knowledge/wisdom with others, and sacrificially serving others and it STILL be a successful evening. Through Christ's Spirit in us, we can even find great joy and fulfillment in sacrifice for the sake of others rather than ourselves.  

Because of the gospel, "we selflessly sacrifice and commit, but not out of a need to convince ourselves or others that we are acceptable. We can love a person enough to confront, yet stay with the person even when it does not benefit us." -Tim Keller. It is this same Spirit-empowered Jesus-like love that we see in Stephen's forgiveness of those who're murdering him. 

Because of the gospel, we've been given new Christ-like minds and are able to humbly count others more significant than ourselves and look to the interests and needs of other over our own (Phil. 2:3-4).  When we remember that Jesus did this for us in his life and especially on the cross, it allows us to honestly love others without expecting something in response.