Relationship grace: the starting point

Last week I wrote about my struggles to keep relationships going, to know how to move past hurt, disappointment, and the little conflicts that plague all human relationships.

Relational grace starts with a grasp of how God relates to us. Romans 3:23 says that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God"

God is glorious and has always been glorious. He exists in glorious relationship within the Trinity. He created a perfect creation and world for us to live in and called it GOOD! But we have fallen short of that glory right from the beginning. Some of us fall less, some more, but the standard of God's glory is so high, it's no use comparing. That would be like comparing who can jump and get closer to the sun.

God didn't decide to throw out His relationship with us or OR throw out His standard of glory in response to our fallenness. 

God's response is this:
Romans 3:23-26: "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forwards as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith . . . It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus."

God so orchestrated the events of our world that He could be both the just JUDGE upholding his glorious standards, and the compassionate JUSTIFIER making us right in His sight by appeasing His wrath against our rebellion--with the blood of His own son. He exchanges our sinfulness for His Son's perfect life. Glorious. 

What does this mean for our relationships?
We will all fail in our relationships and fall short of the glory that relationships were meant for. Relationships were made to be beautiful and transforming, but they're often the source of our greatest pain.

So, do we throw our relationships completely, resolving never to let anyone ever hurt us? That sounds lonely. Or, do we resolve to get rid of the standards, accepting whatever we can get because we know we need friends in the end?

The good news is that the Gospel offers another way altogether. The Gospel is a perfect blend of love and truth. My friend Ann recently taught on this at a women's retreat and I appreciate the explanation so much. It is only in the Gospel that we can be both completely truthful (upholding God's glorious standards) AND completely loving (full or grace and forgiveness). The Gospel is not about balancing these two; it's about God's perfect blend of them.

Here's the illustration we created for that idea:
We may try to be all loving in our friendships, never expecting anything, never confronting problems. This results in shallow friendships that lack transparency and a loving desire to see our friends grow in knowing and following God. That's like a soda with way too much carbonated water and no syrup.

The other imbalance is all truth in our relationships. We demand that our standards are met, we have expectations, and when our friends fail, we're disappointed and we want them to know it! That's like a soda overloaded with syrup and not mixed with enough of the carbonated water.

But the good news about Jesus says something different about us and our relationships. It's says that we're all way more flawed than we realize, but at the same time, way more loved and accepted, through Jesus. This is the perfectly blended soda in the picture below. Tim Keller says, "We are more flawed and sinful than we ever dared believe, yet we are more loved and accepted than we ever dared hope at the same time." So refreshing!

Because we experience grace and acceptance in Jesus, and we live in His Spirit (the Spirit of God who is both the Justifier and the Judge), we can live in relationships of grace:
where sins are covered,
where brokenness is made whole,
where there is freedom to fail,
where there is freedom to confront sin,
where there is grace for mistakes and disappointments,
where we face our flaws head-on,
where we are known, loved, and accepted.

Friends, I know this is a glorious view of friendships that we haven't achieved yet. But because we are His and have His Spirit, let's aim for glory, while cherishing God's dearly-bought grace for our failures.

More on practical ways to do this coming soon!

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