Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Duties of Our Relationships

From Richard Baxter's Christian Directory comes this quote: "It is the pernicious subversion of all societies, and so of the world, that selfish, ungodly persons enter into all relations with a desire to serve themselves there, and fish out all that gratifieth their flesh, but without any sense of the duty of their relation. They bethink them what honour, or profit, or pleasure their relation will afford them, but not what God and man require or expect from them. All their thought is, what they shall have, but not what they shall be and do. They are very sensible what others should be and do to them; but not what they should be and do to others. Thus it is with magistrates, and with people, with too many pastors and their flocks, with husbands and wives, with parents and children, with masters and servants, and all other relations. Whereas our first care should be to know and perform the duties of our relations, and please God in them, and then look for his blessing by way of encouraging reward. Study and do your parts, and God will certainly do his."

Richard Baxter (1615-1691) was an English Puritan leader. So, of course, I am back to the Puritans for insight on godly Christian living and how to live out the Scriptures in everyday life. The subject of relationships is my particular fascination because the kingdom of God is all about relationships. The Trinity is about the relationship of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. No person of the God head is busy trying to see what they can "fish out" from the other person what might gratify themselves or promote their own interest over the other.

We, the church, have completely lost our understanding of what are our duties in the relationships that God gives to us. Our sole duty is to study and to seek out what we are to be and to do for those God gives to us for relationships. The two greatest commandments seem to cover this pretty succinctly: Love God with all our hearts, and love our neighbor as we love ourselves. It all comes down to service and duty for the kingdom of God, NOT about whether or not we are going to gain something or to benefit.

Now, IF we are all seeking this in our relationships, then things run very smoothly and no one person is left doing all the serving and pouring out. But when we are busy demanding or expecting the other person to be doing everything to make us happy, to meet our needs, to sacrifice for us,to take the initiative, then there is always a deficit in the relationship. Notice Baxter says that the selfish, ungodly people's approach to relationships subverts societies and is pernicious. Maybe this is a more clear and direct cause of the disintegration of God's church in America than any other.

What would happen if we raised our children to look at pursuing a mate as a blessed opportunity to find one other person to serve, to care for, to lay down their life for, to build up and edify, to nurture, to help reach their God given potential? And what would happen if they actually found a spouse that believed their duty was to do the same for them? What kind of marriages would begin to grow around us in the church? What kind of families would develop? What kind of friendships? What kind of churches would come from this kind of living out the faith?

God help us all to seek to please Him more than we seek to please ourselves, to learn to fulfill our duties to our spouses and children without selfishness, and thereby to build His kingdom. After all, we pray that His will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

---posted by Queen Lucy

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