Our God is unchanging, perfect in His justice, and overwhelming in His love. He has the power and the knowledge to guide all things in the story of this universe to the end He has planned for it. Yet one of the more puzzling aspects of God’s character is His desire for relationship. We looked at this idea weeks ago, seeing that God longs to be with us, but the mystery goes deeper than that.
The evidence that we have suggests that God has existed in relationship with Himself from eternity past. John gives us this remarkable imagery: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God” (John 1:1-2). If we continue reading this passage, we discover that this Word was Jesus. From the beginning He was with God, was Himself God, and was the agent of creation. If we dig further into Scripture, we see the Holy Spirit elevated similarly, described as eternal God. This is the mystery that we refer to as the Trinity: God revealed in three persons, yet still one God, in fellowship forever. John Piper stated it like this:
“Within the triune Godhead (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), God has been uppermost in His own affections for all eternity. This belongs to His very nature, for He has begotten and loved the Son from all eternity. Therefore, God has been supremely and eternally happy in the fellowship of the trinity” (Desiring God, 43).
How amazing! The Father, Son, and Spirit have fellowship with each other, and they have sought to share that fellowship with us. In fact, this is the central message of the gospel, that “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Our sins, the things we did wrong, separated us from fellowship with God because of His justice. His love, however, has made the way for fellowship to be restored. “If while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (Romans 5:10).
It should come as no surprise to us, therefore, that God takes our interpersonal relationships seriously. Our relational nature mimics God’s fellowship, and so He does not allow us to treat relationships flippantly. In Matthew 18, Jesus instructed us how to proceed when a fellow believer has wronged us, and it involves several attempts to address the sin so the relationship can be restored. Similarly, in Matthew 5, Jesus told His listeners to be mindful of brothers who had something against them and to make amends before they come to worship God. It is always our responsibility to seek restoration, regardless of who is at fault. We do not have the luxury of holding bitterness or grudges in our hearts while we wait for someone else to make the first move. Only when we have made our best attempts to reconcile can we walk away with a clean conscience.
Paul pleaded with the Philippian believers to seek unity. He asked them to “complete [his] joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” (Philippians 2:2). Instead of seeking their own interests, they were to consider others first, imitating the servant spirit demonstrated by Jesus through His life and crucifixion. Jesus told His disciples that the distinguishing mark of the church would be love: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
This is why bitterness, disunity, and dishonesty are so damaging to our lives. These things cast a shadow over our relationships, veiling us from one another. Instead of giving us a picture of who God is, our relational nature then becomes a source of misery. We become closed off from one another and from the God who is our source of joy in this life and the life to come.
Are you harboring bitterness in your heart? Have you been honest with those you love? Are these things keeping you from experiencing healthy relationships with others or with Christ? Your comments and questions are welcome on Facebook!