Why are so many families and churches falling apart? Were there some adhesive qualities at work in previous generations helped to make relationships more cohesive?
The answer, I believe, is yes, but. Such qualities did exist, and still do, but not everybody was convinced of their value. Things have always been falling apart, to a greater or lesser extent. The change in our era is that there is now such a general distaste for these qualities that a large part of the population, even among Christians, has come to accept anarchy as the normal state of things.
So, what are the qualities I believe to be the missing adhesive in relationships? There are three: submission to God; commitment to the relationship and forgiveness. I know, they don’t sound attractive or useful to the contemporary mind, but I believe the lack of these qualities is what has created the contemporary mess. Let’s consider them one by one.
Commitment to God. Paradoxically, this is the source of freedom. The popular conception is that making a commitment to serve God will squeeze all the pleasure out of life. The opposite is true. When we are in the circle of God’s love there is room for all the true joy and happiness of life that does not leave a bitter aftertaste. We do not become free when we step out of that circle, we simply step into another circle that promises much, then closes in on us and squeezes all the joy and happiness out of life.
Commitment to the relationship. The benefits that we derive from a relationship, be it family, church, or anything else, does not depend on other people. It depends on our commitment to make that relationship work. It is entirely possible to be miserable while with a group of kind and caring people. It is equally possible to feel blessed and fulfilled while with group of people who ae considerably less than perfect. My attitude is what makes the difference.
Forgiveness. The modern concept of closure – the idea that I cannot find peace until the person who hurt me is identified and dealt with – is a recipe for prolonging misery. I can leave the task of dealing with the offender to human and/or divine justice, it’s not up to me. I can simply forgive and be free. Sometimes the problem is merely my perception of what happened. Sometimes there was clearly an intention to do harm. Either way, forgiveness will set my heart and mind at liberty.
We need all three qualities. If one is missing, the other two are probably pretty much gone as well.
When the Holy Spirit is present in the core of our life, He will give us these three qualities, and they will be the glue that keeps our relationships from falling apart.