God Desires Relationship More Than You Do
The Sojourn Blog
Discussions on relationships, culture, and faith.
We are a people built for relationships. Whether those relationships come in the form of Facebook friends, Instagram followers, cups of coffee, Trivia Nights with friends, or taking dirty laundry to our parents houses on the weekends, our human nature is wrapped in an undeniable need for meaningful relationship.
As a pastor I often spend my time with people who are in the most need of relationship. The “down and out.” The ones deemed hardest to love. The homeless, the hurting, the poor--the people our city is keenly aware of, but doesn’t truly see. The questions that inevitably arise when I discuss faith with people who are withheld the thing their human nature desires most is, how could I possibly buy into a God who is more concerned with placing unattainable expectations on people than he is loving them?
And yet this isn’t a question that is isolated to a single demographic in our city. People everywhere perceive God to have unattainable expectations and rules that may or may not lead to a meaningful relationship. We tend to react harshly against people who place rules and expectations ahead of relationships.
However, the more I explore scripture the more I see God in 3 ways.
1. God is a God of Relationship First
There are many ways we seek to understand God. I would argue the best way to know him is by allowing him to speak for himself. In Exodus 34, God appears on a mountain where Moses is waiting for him and begins to tell Moses who he is, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” Every adjective God uses to describe himself are inherently relationship forming characteristics. The very character and nature of God is relational.
It reminds me of stories I’ve heard about Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart. He was known for his relational posture toward his employees. He would show up at one of his stores around the country and would address each department manager by their first name. As the department manager would attempt to give Walton the statistics on their department, he would shut down that conversation and ask a personal question about the manager’s family. Sam Walton knew that to be a great CEO started with being a person who genuinely cared for his people on a personal level.
2. God is a God of Pursuit Second
In Genesis after Adam and Eve took a bite of the fruit God told them not to eat, they immediately realized their disobedience and were afraid of God’s punishment so they hid themselves from him. God immediately seeks them out, finding them covered and ashamed.
Oftentimes, we get hung up on God being a God who punishes every little thing we do that is “not right.” Yet the truth is that God’s desire for relationship with us moves him to pursue our hearts no matter our external behavior.
As a parent I have moments where I am completely frustrated with my kids behavior. There are moments, in my weakness, where I yell or make a parenting mistake. And I usually sit my kids down after and ask them for forgiveness and take the opportunity to explain to them that even dad needs grace. I never want them to hide when they slip up for fear of being punished. I want them to feel like I am a father who cherishes them first and foremost.
3. God is a God of Expectation Third
The final part of the Exodus passage we mentioned earlier shows the expectation of God has for his people. Exodus 34:7 says, “Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.” We tend to be ok with God’s character of love and forgiveness, but don’t like it when we hear that he is a God of punishment. We like the sound of a “no-expectation” relationship. The problem is, those don’t exist.
Every healthy relationship has a healthy dose of expectation. In a good marriage, spouses expect there will not be cheating or abuse, and that each person will pursue the other and no one else. God is a God of relationship first and out of that relationship he has expectations for his people. His expectation is that people live out his character in the world around them.
What could be more relevant in our world than a God who’s very nature is to pursue us relationally?
Can I offer you a challenge? What would it look like for us to live out the character of God? To work to have the posture of relationship God has toward us? Try these 3 relationship building things this week and see what happens.
Dialogue. Find a trusted friend to talk about your frustrations with God, school, friendships, family, politics and more. Afterward, talk about the ways those things bring you joy. And turn and ask them to share their frustrations and joys. Dialogue is inherently relational. It bridges divides. So dialogue about things that matter and some that may not as much.
Intentional Acts of Kindness. Random acts of kindness are wonderful and should be a part of our rhythm of life. Even more so, highly intentional acts of kindness change the world. I had a conversation recently with a guy who was helping another friend through a very difficult life situation including the loss of a spouse. He said the reason he wanted to be there for his friend in his time of need was because of someone who had been there for him in his lowest moments. Highly intentional acts of kindness are infectious and life changing. Find that person who needs you and be present with them.
Befriend the Marginalized. There are countless people in our city who have no one to show them compassion, love, friendship, or grace. God’s real desire for your life is that you be a conduit of his character for the people who struggle most, to satisfy that deep human need for relationship. So go to the Tent City, the food bank, the low income housing, the local grocery store, or wherever it is, and tell someone, “hello, how are you today.” It may just change their day.