I find it both encouraging and maddening when I read items from the business world that speak to important points in our relationships with others. Last night I stumbled across an article at BNET on networking that stated those things that are beneficial in personal relationships are also good for business relationships. Generosity, authenticity and kindness were mentioned.1
But wait, there’s more! BNET had another article that said research has shown that substantive conversations rather than small talk make people happy. It even went so far as to say that small talk usually made people unhappy!2
These things are encouraging to read because they’re discussing relating to people in ways that resonate with the teachings of the Bible. Their observations reflect what Francis Schaeffer defined as the Mannishness of Man:
“Those aspects of man, such as significance, love, rationality and the fear of non-being, which mark him off from animals and machines and give evidence of his being created in the image of a personal God.”3
So, why did I find this maddening? Because far too often Christians, rather than leading the way in relationships, instead trivialize and depersonalize other people to the extent that their actions indicate in practical terms they believe in the impersonal god of the Deists rather than the personal, living God who created us in His image.
Take just those three qualities mentioned above: generosity, authenticity and kindness. I have known Christians who are oblivious to the needs of others while some are even suspicious of those in need. Others are generous if it costs them nothing. Few are selflessly generous.
Christians are adept at small talk while authenticity in substantive conversations is far too rare. Substantive topics about God or living as Christians are turned into theological mind games or moral platitudes. Authenticity is hidden behind walls of defensiveness or self-satisfaction. Questions about the life of another are far too often mere conversational babble rather than an expression of genuine interest or concern.
Kindness. Well, you know, there are times when I think kindness is the forgotten virtue. It has no bell or whistles, and it’s not an onstage trait that sets us as the center of attention. It’s a quiet virtue: thinking of others before you speak, being aware of how your words will impact another person who is listening, considering the circumstances and relationships of someone and then acting to help ease their load.
We treat each other as non-beings. This is wrong. This is wrong. This is wrong. Christians are being conformed to the image of Christ, how can we of all people treat one another as trivia? We know we are made in God’s image. Look at David’s words—this is who we are:
“When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;
What is man that You take thought of him,
And the son of man that You care for him?
Yet You have made him a little lower than God,
And You crown him with glory and majesty!”
Jesus Christ gave us a new command to love one another. Schaeffer called it The Mark of the Christian.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Yet we see the scars of our fallen world in rampant depersonalization and loneliness. A sense of community is all but lost. And Christians act as the world does—with pride and power we break the battered reed and we extinguish the smoldering wick. Why? We don’t ‘get’ grace. We don’t think and remember and rejoice in the love and grace that God has extended and given to us, and so we don’t extend God’s grace and love to one another. Edmund Clowney has these profound words on love in his comments on 1 Peter 1:22:23:
“Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” [1 Peter 1:22-23]
“…he urges Christians to love one another, he shows that what we are to do is grounded in what Christ has done. God’s word renews, cleanses, and matures us for a life of love….
“…Peter requires love for fellow-Christians as the great mark of true holiness. He is not satisfied with tolerance or acceptance, far less with formalized distance. He will have love, sincere love, without pretense or hypocrisy. (In the New Testament, ‘unhypocritical’ always describes love.) But even sincerity is not enough: our love must be ‘deep’ and intense. Peter uses a word that means ‘stretched’ or ‘strained’….
“How can such love be commanded? …For such love to appear, the pride and selfishness of our alienation from God must be swept away. They must be replaced by a heart made new with the motives of grace. It is the word of God, the good news of the gospel, that is the means both of our new birth and of our nurture in holiness.
“Because God’s love is the source of ours, the message of his love is what kindles ours. Christian love may be demonstrated by a hug, a holy kiss, or a helping hand, but Christian love cannot be transmitted that way. Christian love is born as Christians are born: through the truth of the gospel….”4
“Christian love is born as Christians are born: through the truth of the gospel….” We must set aside self-protection and self-satisfaction. We must be killing sin or sin will be killing us. We must bear the fruit of the Spirit in our lives:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
Christ said He was meek and lowly in heart. Are we? Philippians 2 describes His great humbling and obedience to death. Does God’s Word pierce our hearts?
Let us follow Christ…let us remember God created us in His image…let us remember God is conforming us to the image of His Son…
Let us love one another deeply from the heart.
Handshake stylized: KVDP, Public Domain
1Jessica Stillman, Instant Networking: 3 Ways to Build Better Relationships Today.
2Kimberly Weisul, Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Happier.
3Francis Schaeffer, The God Who Is There, 1968, p. 178.
4Edmund Clowney, The Message of 1 Peter, 1988, pp. 73-75.