I’m Dave Jensen and I’m so excited to be here today, especially as we’re digging into a topic that is close to my heart, the topic of relationships. I don’t know what your experience of relationships have been, in my time I’ve seen some great ones and some bad ones.
Probably the most significant relationship in my childhood was that of my parents. My parent’s marriage was and is incredible, they’ve been married for 51 years. They met when they were kids, Mum was dropped off at church for cheap baby sitting and Dad was dropped off so his parents could play golf.
My parent’s marriage has been the bedrock of my entire family, from it sprung most of my other relationships, certainly growing up. Cousins, family friends and church friends, when I think back to my childhood I don’t remember tv or video games, I remember people, wonderful, warm memories, my fondest memories are about people.
But I’ve also been involved in some painful ones too.
I became a Christian when I was 28 but before that I was married and divorced in my early 20s, a marriage which produced 2 amazing kids. Divorce hurts, it hurts everyone involved, the kids, my parents, not to mention my ex wife and I. It created a huge wound in me which I carried around within me for many years, so painful that I actually couldn’t talk about it for many years.
I wonder if that’s been your experience. Think of your fondest memories, I bet they’re about times you’ve shared with people. But then, think of your most painful memories, again almost always involving people. Relationships are incredibly powerful aren’t they? They have the power to fill us with incredible joy but also the power to cause immense pain.
The question is – why? What is it about how we relate to other people that is so powerful? Why do relationships have the ability for the highest of highs but also the lowest of lows?
But even deeper than that, is it possible for us to relate in marriage, in friendship, in church community in a way where we don’t keep seeing things break down and cause havoc, but rather be a source of joy and happiness for us?
God is not a silent God, He speaks and He speaks directly about this topic, and we have few better players to hear from than by observing the very first human relationship, between the very first people.
What we see here are not just helpful guidelines for us in relating to one another, but also the idea that actually the power in relationships is not accidental, it’s intentional and it points us to a deeper purpose at play that God has in bringing us together.
Genesis 1, which you looked at a few weeks ago talks all about Gods creation of all things. It’s this incredible aerial, birds-eye view of creation. Now, if you remember, at the end of most days of creation God would look back and assess his handiwork and say ‘this is good’. The last thing he creates is people and he takes it one step further and says ‘this is VERY good’. God has made everything and he’s pleased with it all.
That is until now. The Bible reading we had given for us starts with something very different.
Up until verse 18 everything has still been good, good, very good but then:
The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone… ~Genesis 2:18 (NIV)
This is good, good, good, very good. But now this is NOT good. What is it? Man’s alone-ness, loneliness. And that shouldn’t surprise us because God, the creator, has never been alone. In chapter 1 you see that he is the trinity, in constant community within himself, never lonely or needy. All eternity past and future in community.
And just as he is, so we are designed by him for relationships, in community. We are designed for relationships with one another. That is why loneliness is such a terrible thing.
A death row documentary shows prisoners where the worst punishment was isolation. 23 hours a day alone with 1 hour for exercise in a cage. The state of Florida knew to really hurt a man you cut him off from people. It made them deranged, and was a path towards insanity.
Covid19 in isolation. We’re designed to relate to each other and so that’s why God does something about it.
…I will make a helper suitable for him. ~Genesis 2:18 (NIV)
And so, in verses 21 and 22 we read how God made a woman out of the rib of Adam. In the woman the suitable helper was created.
So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. ~Genesis 2:21-22 (NIV)
In the woman, Eve, the suitable helper for Adam was created. I know to our 21st century ears, that sounds incredibly sexist and demeaning, like God is giving Adam a maid or a slave, but that’s not the meaning of the term. The phrase suitable helper is used 16 times in the Bible and 13 of those times it’s used for God himself, being a suitable helper for his people Israel. So, this is not an expression of superiority but rather of equal but different partnership. We see here Adams desire for relationship being completely fulfilled in Eve, his wife.
So we have what is not good, loneliness and God reaching into the middle of that and giving us each other… other people. The illness is loneliness and the cure is each other!
We were designed for relationships, to know and be known, to love and be loved in return. You were created to be fulfilled by others but also to fulfil others.
And we don’t just get this concept in Genesis but all throughout the rest of the Bible. We see it here, in husband and wife. Later, with children, then with friends and ultimately, in the church.
Why do relationships have so much power over us? Because God says the most important thing about your life is relationship. Not accomplishment or achievement, it’s people. That’s the heart of life. Relationships are what makes life mean anything. That’s why when it’s good it’s amazing. But when it’s bad it’s truly awful.
So, the question is, how do we take that principle, that relationships are what matter most and apply it to our relationships in order to make them what God designed them to be: loving, caring, thoughtful?
Is it possible that our lives don’t have to be defined by a lifetime of bitterness and anger and resentment but instead can be defined by mutually loving and caring relationships?
The answer is – yes! That’s why God made you that way and He shows us how in the passage.
The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman, for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. ~Genesis 2:23-25 (NIV)
How can they feel no shame? This is a picture of life with no sin. Living life the way it was designed, living life with God at the centre.
You see, God has designed you to relate not just with each other but with Him. In fact, even more than that, He has designed you to best relate to one another when you’re in a relationship with him.
It’s crucial that we don’t forget Gods presence here. This relationship is an incredible one, but not because of the two people involved but because they were in constant relationship with both each other, and with God. The vertical and the horizontal. This is a picture of a relationship with each other but with God at the centre.
The meaning of life, this isn’t a small thing. In fact, let me say outright, I believe this concept, knowing and being known by God and by people is at the very centre of what it means to be alive. To be living life the way you were designed. I don’t think it’s possible to live a meaningful life without both of these things.
A little bit later, Jesus addresses the same issue. In Matthew 22, a man approached Jesus and asked him straight, what does God want from us?
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ ~Matthew 22:37-40 (NIV)
Love your neighbour as yourself, value relationships, put other people first, relate to other people in community. But don’t miss the other part. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
Jesus says, among all the relationships in life, it’s relationship with God that matters the most. That’s what life is all about. That’s the main thing. That’s what God made you for.
And yet it’s interesting, that whilst most of us would acknowledge that relating to other people is important, even though most people in this country say they believe in Gods existence, the truth is he hardly ever comes up on our radar. We just don’t think about him or acknowledge him. And it’s because of that that Jesus was sent to earth.
Jesus was sent to earth not to teach religious people to be good, or to give you life tips, but for a far deeper purpose. To reconcile you to God. To bring you into relationship with God. He died on the cross taking the punishment we deserve so it could happen.
Jesus is the best argument for the truthfulness of what he’s saying. Not only did he speak about it and offer it, He demonstrated it.
You see – at the heart of the universe something truly incredible is going on. There is a God who made you, who loves you and who wants to know you, who has moved heaven and earth in order for that to happen.
So, what do you need to do?
All you need to do is say Yes to God. Accept his offer of a relationship and realise you need to apologise for the way you’ve treated him, realise you need forgiveness and put your faith in him.