Relationships: How We Treat Others (pt 1)

The kingdom at work in our relationships involves embracing a different relational paradigm. It means starting to use a different set of rules and measures to govern the way we relate to other people. Most people never give much thought to their relational paradigm—the values they use to make decisions about how to relate to others. As a result of this, most of us don’t have a clearly defined relational paradigm, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have one. It just means we don’t know what it is. Our relational paradigm is part of our worldview, just like our identity. Our identity is how we perceive ourselves within our worldview; our relational paradigm is how we perceive others. Our goal, of course, should be not just to articulate our relational paradigm, but also to bring it in line with God’s relational paradigm. God relates to people as well, and if we’re smart, we’ll try to learn to relate to people the same way that God does.

Let’s look at a story from John that illustrates Jesus’ relational paradigm: The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do You say? This they said to test Him that they might have some charge to bring against Him. Jesus bent down and wrote with His finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask Him, He stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more He bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before Him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “’Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you? She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” John 8:3-11

Jesus is simply amazing here. What is the first thing that stands out here? Jesus is defending this woman from her accusers. Now, notice what happens after that, when the problem of what she’s done is addressed: Jesus empowers her freedom and commands her to make good choices. There is a stark contrast that is painted here. The scribes and Pharisees are acting under a different relational paradigm here—one where what the woman has done is a problem for them, and so they have to punish her behavior. Jesus, on the other hand stands in stark contrast to that. He’s not offended by her behavior. He doesn’t try to control her behavior so she does what He wants. He doesn’t threaten to punish her. He remains true to who He is, and He respects who she is.

This is so different from how many of us handle and process our interactions with other people. Jesus is clear about the fact that what the woman does cannot force His hand to the point where He will try to control what she does. In short, the externals of what she does can’t control His internals. Let me be very clear about this point because our society seems majorly confused about it. You are responsible for what you do. No one else is responsible for what you do. Someone else is responsible for what they do, and you are responsible for what you do. You are not responsible for what someone else does, nor are they responsible for what you do. If someone makes poor choices, those poor choices do not determine what your response is unless you let it. If you let their choices influence your response, then in essence that means you’re allowing yourself to be controlled by other people. You let their poor choices determine your choices (which are usually equally poor). In summation, then, let me point out what seem to be the values Jesus is representing in this interaction. This is really important to catch here; this is the kingdom relational paradigm: 1) I will love you regardless of your bad choices. 2)I’m responsible for my behavior. I’m not responsible for your behavior. 3)What you do can’t control the way that I interact with you. 4)I won’t compromise your freedom or responsibility for your own behavior. 5)I will not punish your bad choices, but I will empower you to make good choices with your freedom.

This is so different from how we tend to interact with each other! Usually we fail on all these points; as soon as we see people making bad choices, we appoint ourselves as being responsible for fixing their behavior, let them control our inner dynamics (we get angry, frustrated, or otherwise), then we compromise their freedom and try to control what they do so they don’t make stupid choses the next time. In this cycle, sin begets sin, and before we know it, we’ve partnered with control so much we’re at least as much in the wrong as they are.

The Godly Wisdom here is to maintain our empowered status. I am empowered. What you do can’t change that so I don’t need to worry about what you do. We can fall prey to the mindset that what the other person does causes me to respond in criticism that causes divisiveness and then separation because of the conflict. But the Holy Spirit desires to empower me so I can lift you up even when you’ve fallen on your face, and I can always choose to not lower myself to partnering with control or other tools of the enemy while I do it.

The way we love people in relationships will attract them to The Heavenly Father, so they can encounter Him relationally. Our Identity (son or daughter of God) empowers us to be influential, because we are led by The Holy Spirit. (Romans 8:14)


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