My wife and I were a part of a small, close-knit church in the past where a pattern emerged over time. A few people in the church would repeatedly make decisions about what the church would be doing without involving others that were directly affected.
Other times they would bring the ideas to people wanting to hear their thoughts and opinions, but attempt to sway them in a manipulative manner toward their agenda.
They were great people that had good intentions to serve the Lord and His church, but their method ruined many relationships and kept the church from growing. For the most part, the only people that stuck around long-term are those that wanted to passively follow their agenda.
It was a red flag we noticed and tried to address, but didn’t do so aggressively enough for too long. Lesson learned.
Our relationship with that church ended abruptly when we came upon a more serious decision and we got more aggressive in our confrontation of the toxic behavior.
It turns out they held a belief (thinking it’s what the Bible teaches) that they were qualified to independently make decisions for everyone else. When treating the Bible responsibly, you come to find out that God supports no forms of human power structures.
This is an example of the first relationship red flag that I’m going to cover in this series of posts.
God’s purpose for relationships
It’s a characteristic that may be more foundational than any other to healthy, godly relationships.
God’s purpose in creating was to expand the relationship the Persons within Him have to another. That other is humanity. He wanted to have children that would participate in the same activity going on in that eternal community.
He wanted them to share the same togetherness (or oneness) they have. And those children would be His partners through representing Him in another realm (the physical one) and ruling it.
The heart of the Fall
At the heart of the Fall was a choice between independence and togetherness (or interdependence). The enemy claimed that eating from that tree would cause Eve to be like God. While he was right that Eve had the potential to be like God and expand His image on the earth, he lied about the method that would cause it to happen.
His lie was that she would become like God through making independent decisions on her own terms, apart from Him and Adam. God split the first human with the purpose that the many would be one, and continue to produce many that would be one.
But choosing independence destroyed that possibility. It’s this same choice manifested in a gazillion different ways that’s been ruining relationships ever since.
Relationships are partnerships
To be clear, independence is not the same as individuality. Each person within God is unique. None of them are quite like the others. They are one, but they aren’t the same.
God mirrored this aspect of Himself when He created the human race. You bring your uniqueness to every relationship, but it must be brought within a commitment of partnership if a relationship is to be healthy.
Independence breaks partnership. It leads you to believe that it’s OK to make decisions yourself even when they affect another. It tells you that it’s OK to push for goals and agendas that are yours instead of ours.
In the book Rooting Out Relationship Killers, author Stephen Matthew puts it simply…
If one person’s will is imposed on the other, you will have problems. Equally, if one person’s will is exercised without reference to the other, you will have problems.
It’s working, pushing, manipulating, guilting, abusing and whatever other tactics that may be used to get what I desire instead of what WE desire together.
If you see this kind of behavior, even if it’s subtle (many times it is), it’s a major red flag in any relationship and should be addressed immediately and seriously.
If the person exhibiting this behavior is unwilling to deal with it and exhibits a lack of effort to prioritize togetherness above all else (to whatever degree is appropriate for the relationship you have), you should strongly consider figuring out a way to move on from that relationship (again, if they’re unwilling to acknowledge and deal with it).
The same goes for church life.
As Matthew said, there will inevitably be problems you can avoid if you remove yourself from the relationship before those problems have the chance to sprout.
Togetherness is a solid foundation
Ultimately, this issue shines a spotlight on why people get in relationships with each other in the first place. The biggest reason that trumps all other reasons is to accomplish something together. It’s not so some people help other people accomplish their something.
When we encounter that tendency in us to desire or do something independently of others when we should be seeking togetherness, it’s time to refocus on why we’re in the relationship in the first place. Is it to serve what you’re individually trying to accomplish? If it is, it’s not a relationship, it’s a business transaction.
Relationships are more important than anything that might happen. It’s more important than you accomplishing what you want to accomplish.
If it isn’t, then the relationship won’t be healthy.
So when it comes to every relationship in your life, work to have them built and sustained on a foundation of mutual agreement, consideration and accomplishment.
If not, there will be problems.