Cultivate Relationship

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I want to start out today talking about the book of Genesis, the first book in the Bible. The word Genesis means “beginnings.” More than just a cool story of the first people on earth, the book of Genesis is great because it gives us a short glimpse into what life was like before sin came into the earth, before stuff got all jacked up, before our perspectives got skewed. Genesis gives us a great reference point for how life should really be lived. We can’t go around naked and pretend like the world is a big garden of Eden, but we can look at Genesis like our true north to our compass. It can help us re-calibrate our thinking to line up with God’s thinking.

If you were with us during our Impassioned series, I made reference to the Hebrew word used in Genesis for the word “work.” It was a word that can perhaps more accurately be translated as a form of worship. A great way to translate this word would be to use the word, “cultivate.” It was Adam’s job to worship/work by cultivating the land. In Eden there were no thorns or weeds. There was no scorching heat or frigid conditions. His work of cultivation was a joy, not a burden. When God made Eve they were put there to cultivate the land together and enjoy its bounty together.

Just looking at the root of the word “cultivate” we find that it can form our word “culture.”  Culture is something that you cultivate, just as you would plants. You tend to it, you care for it, you nurture it. In so doing, it brings you life. You get to eat of its fruit. One person cannot have culture alone. We need people to create a culture. Culture is organic. It is alive and constantly in motion. It is in a constant state of change and growth.

And we know that we were made in the image of God. So, I think before we delve into relationships with others, we first need to understand the nature of people as God created them. Genesis tells us that apart from sin, we are made in the image of God.

If you have a child, you need to have a vision of the person that God has intended for them to be. Before you try to fix them, you need to see them. Michelangelo didn’t start chipping away at a chunk of marble saying, man that piece looks bad. Better get rid of that. He didn’t focus on the pieces he was chipping away, instead he saw the vision of his masterpiece inside. Each chip he made was made with the intention of revealing the beauty within.

Yes, the people in your life are messed up. But before we go to town hacking them away, let’s look at who God created you and I to be. Let’s look at the drawings of the Designer before we try to put the pieces together.

If we are really made in the image of God, our understanding of God is innately linked to our understanding of ourselves. God has many attributes. If we can understand his attributes, we will better understand ourselves. Here are three core attributes of God as it relates to us.

God’s Core Attributes

1. God exists in community.

In the beginning, we have God, who is hovering over the deep. Strangely, Genesis makes reference to God as plural. And I don’t think it was because God was a kindergarten teacher, you know saying things like, “Can we keep our hands to ourselves?” No, I think God had a reason for saying, “let us make mankind in our image.”

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” (Genesis 1:26 NIV)

This lets us know that God is in constant community with himself. He consists of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Three entities operating in complete unity and harmony with one another. These three are not identical, but distinctly powerful and at the same time, dependent upon one another.

Interestingly enough, God only uses his plural voice when he is about to create human kind, male and female. It is almost as if he is showing us why he had to create males and females to be interdependent, because he as the Godhead is beautifully interdependent.

Another important thing to note about God is this.

2. God is creative.

This triune God speaks and instantly things start happening. Light goes forth, plants and animals are created. The whole world is ready for this great thing he is going to do next. He takes some soil and he breathes into Adam the breath of life. Don’t ask me how he did that. But it is interesting to note that all of the elements found in the organic matter of human beings can also be found good ole plain dirt. And we all know what happens when humans have been dead a long time. Their bodies return to the soil once again. So, I guess it shouldn’t surprise us that we were made from dirt, since that is where we return.

And then Adam is given some pretty fun jobs of naming some animals and cultivating the ground. So Adam gets to engage in creativity, to a lesser degree than God, but he engages in a level of creativity because he is made in the image of God.

And God sees that everything that he has made is good.

The third thing we need to keep in mind about God is this:

3. God takes pleasure in community with his creation.

So, even though God loved Adam and took pleasure in his company. He knew that his own company was not enough for Adam. Everything he had made he declared “good.” But the fact that Adam had no partner or peer, God declared that, “not good.” So that brings us to discover The Origins of Human Relationship.

Adam needed community. God knew that if he, as God, would delight in community with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that man also needed the community and culture of a life partner. Not only did God enjoy community with his creation, he wanted them to enjoy it with each other. So, he removed a rib from Adam’s side and he formed Eve.

We may take this little detail for granted, but it is significant. Fast forward thousands of years to the ancient Greeks of the New Testament. They thought that a woman was an altogether horrible creature. They believed that woman was formed from entirely different matter from men. That women were inherently evil while men were descended from the gods.

If you want to learn more about this you can look in the book “Why Not Women.” In it, David Hamilton writes,

You couldn’t have a greater contrast than the creation of man and woman in Genesis and the story the Hesiod told the Greeks. Whereas Zeus created Pandora as an “evil thing” an eternal curse for men, the God of the Bible used His creative talent to form Eve as a beautiful gift to man. He set the couple in the garden as friends and lovers. Instead of brutal battles of gods and goddesses in Greek and Roman myths, we see mutuality, partnership and love. 

It was in this kind of society to which the Apostle Paul writes the letter of 1 Corinthians.

I am bringing this to light because we need to understand our identity as men and women before God and towards each other. This male/female relationship was the first ever created and all of culture and society is built upon this foundation.

Let me show you this passage in 1 Corinthians 11:3

But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. 

Now, Paul is answering some questions the Corinthians had about head coverings. The cultural significance of this is lost on us today because we no longer use head coverings. So, we’re not going to focus on that part.

But men, this Father’s Day, I want to give you a greater understanding of your role in the home. In English, we think of the word “head” like head of a company, you know, the boss, the one who calls the shots. But in the Greek, the word “head” is “kephale.” We can better understand this word to mean something similar to the headwaters of a river. It means source, or origin. If we look at the meaning of the word in that context, see if it makes sense. “The source/origin of every man is Christ, and the source/origin of woman is man, and the source/origin of Christ is God.” See, God is not ruler over Christ, but an equal part of the trinity. In the same way, men and women are equal parts of God’s creation, made in his image. Then the following verses go on to confirm that concept.

Now let’s look at chapter 11, verses 7-11

A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.

I am not going to go into the full intricacies of this verse right now, but what I want you to notice is this pattern of creation.

Creation goes like this: God- Christ- Man- Woman

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We have Woman who originally comes from man’s rib. We have Man, who came from Christ, we have Father God who was the source of Christ. See, just as Christ is not inferior to God, so woman is not inferior to man. But we are all interconnected.

When the time came for God to redeem mankind, he chose a woman. He put the gears in reverse. A woman gave birth to a man, that man was Christ incarnate, and Christ returned to God to intercede on our behalf so that our accuser has no ground to stand on.

When God created woman, it was the first time he said that creation was not just “good” but “very good.”

There are three key principles about relationships we can glean here.

Reasons for Relationship

We need to enjoy community with God.

We need to enjoy community others.

Enjoying God and others is the highest good we can achieve. It is “very good.”

After each day of creation God looked at what he had done, and said, “Yep, this is good!” All the plants and animals, all the mountains and valleys and oceans and rivers. It was good. It’s all good!

But when he looked at Adam and Eve, god gets really excited. He said, “Well, all that other stuff is good. But look right here at these two people. This is very good!” He uses the words “very good” to describe them.

Have you ever been blown away by creation, by its majesty? You know like looking at the Grand Canyon or standing on top of Mount McKinley? Well, according to what we know from Genesis, God thinks you top all that. We, men and women, humankind, we are the ones who take his breath away. And not us individually, but together. He created us to rule. He created us to reign. And he created us to do it together.

We want to take care of the things around us because God has given us charge to do so, but when it comes to people and the preservation of culture, God regards those things more highly. We have to align our priorities with God’s.

Everything we do from art to government to business, even to sports or entertainment is all for the development of culture and community.

The founder of Starbucks, Howard Shultz, looked at a cup of coffee and saw more than a coffee bean. He saw a community around the cup. He had more than just a vision of good coffee, but a vision of people coming together and creating community around it. That is why he is so successful today. He linked the coffee bean which is “good”… And he linked it to something that is “very good,” the way people come together in a coffee shop to hang out, to meet, to relate, to do life together.

In everything we do, we’ve got to keep this concept in the forefronts of our minds. How many times have we lost sight of the highest good of community with God and others all in the name of being “productive” or making a buck? How many movies have been created in which the character gets caught up in a job or a pursuit only to realize that people in his or her life is what really matters?

We know this stuff inherently because God put it in us. Everything we produce, the jobs we do are all for the purpose of sustaining community and culture. Even if we just work with “stuff” all day, we have to understand that the stuff was created for people, and we are doing work out of love for others.

Throughout this series we are going to delve into how to have good relationships. That is why I’m laying a framework for you now, to see your origin. Now I am going to give you a few practical tips that can get you going on the road to great relationships this week. So many of our relational problems can be addressed in these simple, but profound rules. I promise, if you take these to heart today, your relationships will improve.

Relationship Principles and Relationship Killers

1. You cannot control other human beings.

Control kills relationship.

2. Each of us makes our own choices and reaps our own consequences. 

Abdication of responsibility kills relationship.

3. Unconditional love comes exclusively from God.

Absence of love kills relationship.

I want to talk straight with you men and women. We have men in the church, (I’m not saying it’s our church,) who think that in order to be the head of the home, they’ve got to come down on their family like a drill sergeant. That if they are not controlling the members of their household, that they are not doing their jobs. This is a lie that the enemy has sold to believing men. As you can see from Genesis, we were created as men an women both in the image of God to rule and to reign together; to complement one another.

On the flip side, we have men that are not controlling others, but they are also not controlling themselves. They act like they are powerless to effect change around them and let others control their lives, sometimes even their wives. These men can be so passive that some women feel they have no choice but to take full control.

We have women doing the same sorts of things. There are women who try to control their children, their men, even their co-workers. Some women are just plain bossy or naggy. Others are more subtle and manipulative. Either way, it’s the same old thing, attempts at control.

Other women believe the lie that they have no choices in their families, that they are powerless individuals. That their husband’s opinions are the only ones that matter. They don’t take responsibility for themselves or their own impact in their families. These women unknowingly hold themselves back from what God has intended them to be. Rather than being a true help to their families, they linger behind without confidence to assert themselves. These women need to read the stories of Abigail or Jael, Lois or Eunice and remind themselves of their powerful influence in the lives of others.

The bottom line is that we err when we either try to control others or allow ourselves to be controlled by others.

Think about this: we never see God coercing anybody to do anything. Even when he draws us to himself, he does it gently, he doesn’t push anyone. If God himself does not assert his own power in this way, why should we?

If God made us obey him, how could he ever have people who loved him? Inherent in the ability to love is the ability to choose. So even though it may feel counterintuitive, when we give people the option of not loving us, we are also giving them the opportunity to love us. Love cannot be created in an environment of coercion and control.

And I’m telling you, if you open the doors of choice to the people in your life, you will begin to open the opportunity for love to begin to flow.

Some of you may be here this Father’s day and you don’t even know if you want God in your life. You feel that God is trying to pressure you into something you don’t want. That’s not the God I find in my bible. My God always gives people an option to say no.

Others of you may be scared about losing some of the relationships in your life that matter most to you. Fear is getting you nowhere, it is actually pushing others away from you. The more you try to grasp, the more your relationships slip away like sand through your fingers. If you are there, it’s time to let go. It’s time to give your relationships to God and trust him to sustain them if they need to be sustained.

Without God, none of your relationships will work like they are supposed to. Our Creator is constantly, gently, but consistently beckoning us towards him. All of creation longs for him. He is our source. He is the only one who can teach us about real love. Let’s worship our Creator and ask him to teach us how to love each other.