Kia ora everyone. Rob here.
At the core of dysfunctional relationship is the desire to bend others to do your will. It leads very easily to manipulation, bullying, diminishing and even, violence. We see it in political affairs, in workplaces, on the internet and, yes, churches, as well as personal relationships. Wherever people share life together, this desire to control others exists. Now, there’s also a level of persuasion and argument that’s good and healthy. Issues do need to be debated if we are to find better ways of doing things and healthier ways to think. There needs to be honest critique, but this is only healthy if people are respected, and there is a collective goal of growth.
In Colossians 3:12-14, Paul writes this:
2 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
For Paul, this is what it means to be people of God. It means treating each other with dignity, respect and love. It means reflecting God’s love for us back to each other. It means dying to every desire to use others for our own benefit. This desire for control is what lies behind lust, rage, greed, slander and many, if not all, of the vices on Paul’s lists. It also lies behind subtler ways of relating also. Procrastination, avoidance, addictions, busyness and more, all have at their root a desire to bend others and life to our will.
We are both victims and perpetrators of this dysfunction. Ever since Adam blamed Eve for his failings and Eve blamed the serpent for her weakness, we have struggled to accept God’s will as perfect and good, and accept each other as necessary allies for our journey. Paul takes it a step further. He invites us to accept others as it is together that we are Christ’s body.
Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave of free, but Christ is all, and is in all (Colossians 3:11).
For we were all baptised by one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink (1 Corinthians 12:13).
Paul’s radically egalitarian message must have stood out as a glowing beacon in those status-driven times. But we need to hear those messages just as strongly today! Paul’s not saying, ‘there are no differences,’ he’s saying that Christ is the head of the church and we’re all equal under that head. There is no superiority or higher status. We can be different races, different socio-economic levels, different genders, have different political persuasions, have different theological emphases and still be one, because Christ is all, and is in all.
This vision of us all as Christ’s body needs to guide us as we relate to one another. It tells us that we need each other and it means that you, yourself, are needed. It tells us that, on our own, we are weak and unsupported with a short life span. It tells us that attacking each other is a self-destructive act. It tells us that any attempt to dominate is a futile act. It tells me that the only response is to be grateful for my fellow travellers and body parts. It invites me to love and support them the best I can, as Christ my head gives me strength.
May the body reject its dysfunction and embrace the health that comes when we come as one under Christ our head.
Grace and peace.