This is the first post in a series on how following Jesus transforms our relationships.
Relationships are a gift. God puts people in our lives to love and to love us.
Relationships are an achievement. They take work.
We want to be with each other. And yet we also step on each other’s toes and get under each other’s skin.
Honesty is a crucial element for healthy, nurturing relationships. Especially in times of conflict and tension. And yet honesty is a skill to be learned. In untutored hands, honesty resembles a destructive, blunt instrument.
Maybe you’ve heard this phrase: “I’m just telling the truth in love.” In my experience it precedes or follows a criticism.
St. Paul does in fact instruct the Ephesians to tell the truth in love. (Ephesians 4:15) But he wasn’t giving them license to prepare others for confession by pointing out their faults.
His general theme was that following Jesus radically transforms our relationships with other people. How we relate to our spouse, our children, our parents, our neighbors and the people in the pews around us will in time be a reflection of our relationship with Jesus Christ.
Here’s the simple fact of the matter. Jesus raises me from the dead. You too.
Each of us is Lazarus and we wake up each day in the tomb. You can’t raise yourself up by your moral bootstraps in the tomb. Somebody has to raise you from the dead. And that somebody is Jesus.
Every day we’re raised from the dead again. At no point do we begin building up moral and spiritual credits so that Jesus owes us one.
With each breath. With each beat of our hearts and firing of our neurons, we have received the mercy of God in Jesus Christ. The good that we do is a response to the miracle of new life that he has wrought in us today.
This is the starting point for Christians. We are learning to wear mercy lenses so that we can see others as we should.
We are not morally or spiritually superior. Ever. There is no room in the Christian life for a posture of moral superiority. Jesus came in compassion and he sends us toward one another in compassion.
And yet, compassion also involves holding each other accountable to the love of Christ. We don’t just go along to get along. That’s the way of indifference and dishonesty. Neither do we stand in judgment of others.
So what is this telling the truth in love? What truth? What’s loving and what’s just snarky? How do we hold each other accountable without assuming a morally superior attitude? When do we speak and when do we hold our tongue?
We’ll take up these and other themes in the following posts.