I was preaching last week and sought to gain assent to the fact that relationships matter more than other goals we tend to esteem in our culture. I spoke of an individual who had pursued the “P’s” of possessions, power, position, prominence, prestige and popularity. Yet after achieving the ultimate promotion in his career, he reflected on how vacuous his success felt in light of his empty dinner table. His children had not flown the nest, they’d fled without looking back. His wife had grown weary of his missing her hints, her warnings, her frustration as he missed every family event imaginable. Now he sat at the table on what should have been a great day of celebration, but he sat alone.
How many people have sacrificed everything for possessions, power, position, etc., and then discovered they sacrificed too much? After all, the greatest joys in life always come in the context of relationships, and the greatest pain in life always comes in the context of broken or absent relationships. Success at work doesn’t come close to the joy that comes from a close romance, a tender act of love from a child or even a loyal friendship. Pain from an ulcer is nothing compared to the pain of personally achieved solitude.
If you haven’t been there, chances are you’ve known some who have. This kind of human experience is rife in our world today. So here’s the thing – what does this say about God?
We’re the ones who fail, so maybe it doesn’t say anything about God? Or maybe it says a lot. After all, we are made in His image. That’s a big issue, but surely we must see that being made in His image has to mean something more than the ability to think abstractly and make decisions? Maybe, as the Bible seems to support, we are made in the image of a God who is primarily concerned with relationship over any number of “P’s.”
Don’t get me wrong at this point. Does God own everything? Yes, He has all possessions. Is He all-powerful? Of course. Position? Nobody even comes close. Prominence? Goes without saying. Prestige? Genuine cosmos-wide renown. Popularity? Tricky concept, but ultimately He is and will be. But somehow all of these things are not His primary concern.
Just think of the delight of the Father in His Son as heard booming from heaven at the baptism. Just think of Jesus’ delight in praising the Father as we glimpse in Heb.2:12. Oh, and let’s throw in two more comments here – that Hebrews quote refers to Him praising His Father to us, his brothers! And thinking of that delight in the Son, Jesus referenced in the great high priestly prayer that the Father loved us even as He loved Jesus! (John 17:23) The relationships within the Trinity, and spreading out to draw in even creatures like you and me.
Some people seem to be promoting a God made in the image of a pyramid-climbing culture, a God who is primarily concerned with His own prestige, His own possessions, His own power, etc. But while God may be all-powerful, owner of all, etc., His passionate concern and delight seems to be in the arena of relationships. This is not some sort of pseudo-relationality that by an act of the will chooses to present a relational nature for the sake of His fame and renown, but a genuine relationality that never denies these truths, yet is willing to humble Himself and go all the way to death, even death on a cross. I suppose we could slide into a theology of glory versus a theology of the cross theme, but I think I’ve exhausted the word count for this week . . .