“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”
We are focusing on the integrity of the church. We have examined biblical integrity, spiritual integrity, and intellectual integrity. We turn now to relational integrity.
As Jesus makes crystal clear in the two passages from the Gospel of John quoted above, the Christian community should be known for its love and its unity. Not common love and unity, but uncommon. The kind of love and unity that is so distinctive, so unique, so powerful that it stands out in a world of darkness and division.
These two virtues are so important to the relational integrity of the church that Jesus says it is because of the observable love and unity of the body of Christ that the world will know the Father has sent him and we are his disciples. This also implies that the opposite is true: If the Christian community does not display observable love and unity, the world is justified at doubting the gospel.
Relationships are vitally important to everything we do in life. Relationships are also very challenging. They can be difficult and messy. Relationships are the source of our greatest joys in life, and they are the source of many of our greatest sorrows.
God designed relationships to be the foundation of every human institution. Everyone reading this has seen and experienced the positive impact of healthy, effective relationships; and everyone reading this has also seen and experienced the negative impact of dysfunctional relationships. We have all seen people treat each other well, and we have seen people treat each other poorly.
Strong relationships empower families, businesses, teams, and ministries to accomplish incredible things. The fastest way to weaken any human system is to weaken the relationships of the people in the system. This is why it is essential to be wise and skillful in how we interact with others.
Sports provides a dramatic example. When a team wins a championship, it is virtually guaranteed you will hear them credit their success to the chemistry, cohesion, and closeness of the team. Most often they talk about how much they love each other. When a team of athletes has an uncommon level of commitment to each other, they perform and achieve at an uncommon level.
Sadly, the opposite is also true. Broken relationships do great damage to families, businesses, teams, and ministries. And wherever there is a broken relationship, at least one of the parties is acting with selfishness and sin. More often than not, both parties are under the distorting influence of the old nature.
Humility and self-awareness are a big challenge. It is much easier to recognize the old nature operating in someone else than it is to see it operating in you. I have seen many situations of relational conflict where a person accurately sees bad attitude/behavior in another person, but cannot see how their attitude/behavior is also contributing to the discord.
Let me say it again: The fastest way to weaken any team or organization is to weaken the relationships of the people on the team or in the organization. This is why we must walk in wisdom and not get pulled off-path.
The Enemy knows this, which is why he often tempts and attacks us through our relationships. How does the enemy destroy a marriage? Get someone in the marriage to be self-centered, foolish, and contentious. How does the enemy destroy a ministry? Get someone in leadership to be self-centered, foolish, and contentious. How does the enemy destroy a business or a team? By getting people in the business or on the team to be self-centered, foolish, and contentious.
How does the enemy destroy a nation? By getting politicians and citizens to be self-centered, foolish, and contentious.
Most insidiously, the enemy blinds people to their own contribution to the discord, and deceives them into believing that the primary problem lies with the other person/people. The result will be what it says in Galatians 5.20: Some form of “enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions.”
We must … we must … invest in our relationships. As I said at the start, relationships are vitally important to everything we do in life.
“Let love be genuine. Reject what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” (Romans 12.9)