The Bible is all about relationships between nation and nation, person and person, person and God, and nation and God. God’s covenant is about relationship, Christ’s message of salvation is rooted in relationship and striving to achieve right relationship with one another and with God. It’s all about how we choose to live together. Sometimes those relationships are good and healthy, but just as often the Bible speaks of those relationships that have been broken, and are hate filled.
Relationships have inspired some of the biggest movements in our country and in our world for good or for bad. Relationships inspired everything from the revolutionary war, to the civil war, to the holocaust, to the civil rights movement. A few weeks back a small group of us attended a lecture given at Covenant Church by three of the original Freedom Riders. What caught my attention were the reasons given around why they got involved. In particular, Joan Browning, a 19 year old white woman from South Georgia. Her reason for joining the movement was simple. She wanted to attend worship at an African American church and didn’t understand why she couldn’t and why it lead to her removal from the college she attended.
Relationship inspired her and the others, to stand up and say that the way they were treated and viewed by others was not ok. They sought reconciliation with American citizens to bring a relationship of fear, hate, and abuse into the light so a healthier relationship could be forged. So all people: black, brown, or white could live more harmoniously together as God intended humanity to live. We are called to forge that right relationship, God’s law calls for, together in unity with respect and understanding. Timothy Tyson wrote, “If there is to be reconciliation, there must first be truth”. The civil rights movement brought a truth to light, a truth that prevented society from truly living harmoniously and in accordance with God’s commands.
God has been trying to give humanity guidance on our relationships since the beginning of time. This is why there was the creation of the law and when that seemed not work, he sent us the prophets to set us back on the right path, and when that didn’t work, he sent us Christ who brought to light for the people of his day the abuses of society, the pain of relationships betrayed and broken. Christ came to help God’s people begin the process of entering into new relationships of respect, love, and genuine care.
In general, humanity does not value relationships as much as they should. They say hurtful things, call each other names, and very easily enter into hurtful verbal exchanges and sometimes actions. Deuteronomy 30: 15-20 speaks to this when Moses says, “If you obey the commandments of the Lord your god that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you”. God is advising the people, us, that true happiness, true fulfillment in life comes when we are in right relationship with God and his people. He sets the laws, the commandments, to act as a guide to prevent such infractions.
Jesus expounds on these commands intended to guide our relationships. He digs deeper into their meaning. He looks beyond the traditional readings, and beyond the surface meaning. He looks to the root of the problems these laws try to control. He looks to the true sins that create murder, adultery, and the eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth logic. What he presents is meant to be a painful reality for those who hear it. It is meant to awaken all of us to the truths within us that keep us from living into God’s blessings more fully together as his community of believers. We are called to examine the truths that keep us from seeing people for the children of God that they are. We are called to question our judgments, our personal feelings, and beliefs that perhaps harm ourselves and others senselessly. This was Jesus’ reason for doing this.
Jesus was not always gentle and loving with his message. But he intended to make everyone just a little uncomfortable, so he could spark real conversation, introspective looks at ourselves as individuals, and finally reconciliation between all God’s people, true forgiveness and new beginnings experienced here in this life with one another.
Jesus rightly determined that murder was caused by anger and rage, adultery was cause by emotions of lust and perhaps other underlying emotions of negativity, revenge punishment was caused by hate and emotional trauma. Jesus’ prescription is different than that of Deuteronomy which just implores you to control your actions. Jesus’ prescription is to be honest with our emotions, to see what causes the murder, the adultery, the divorce, and the revenge punishments. He wants us to recognize the emotions that drive people to break relationship bonds, to cause harm and in the process drive a wedge between ourselves and God. Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you … Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect”.
None of us will ever attain perfection in this life on level with God. But we are implored to try, to work towards eradicating those harmful emotions and thoughts that bring out the worst in ourselves and each other. We are being warned to be truthful with our selves and to live with forgiveness, love, and harmony with others because God’s blessings come when we are in right relationship with one another. So what emotions do you need to deal with to create harmony in your lives? And how can we more fully dedicate ourselves to God and his love?
 Timothy B. Tyson, Blood Done Sign My Name: A true Story, 21st century.
 Deuteronomy 30: 16, NRSV.
 Matthew 5: 44 and 48, NRSV.
(Based on Deuteronomy 30: 15-20 and Matthew 5: 21-28)