In this series, we are taking a look at some of the ways in which we, as Christians, hunt for loopholes in God’s Word. “Loophole Hunting” is when we take a clearly communicated command from God – one that was intended to be taken into the depths of our hearts and to change our lives - and we find a “technicality.” This technicality, in our minds, gives us permission to either lessen the impact of the command or, in some cases, disregard it entirely.
During the earthly ministry of Jesus, the Pharisees were expert Loophole Hunters. In Matthew 23, Jesus pronounces seven “woes” upon them, exposing their sinful approach towards God’s law. They had found ways of observing the external components of God’s law without actually allowing those things to change their hearts and lives; and Jesus was not happy.
In this “episode” of Loophole Hunters, we are going to take a look at some of the ways that we attempt to bypass God’s Word in the realm of RELATIONSHIPS.
Relationships are important.
Whether a person is a Christian or not, everyone acknowledges the importance and value of relationships. In fact, relationships have been proven to be a vital component of health and wellbeing. Research has shown that healthy relationships can help us live longer, be healthier, and deal with stress more effectively. This same research reveals that a lack of healthy relationships leads to depression, decreased immune function, and higher blood pressure (“Why Personal Relationships Are Important,” by Mary Jo Kreitzer, RN, PhD).
So why do we mess up our relationships so much – and so often - even as Christians?
The answer, to a large degree, is our tendency to hunt for the loopholes in God’s clearly stated “blueprints” for our relationships!
In God’s Word, we have been given “all things that pertain unto life and godliness,” (2 Pet. 1:3) as well as everything that we need to be “complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:17). These promises indicate that God has given us all of the instruction, wisdom, and help that we will need to navigate our human relationships. The only question is, “Are we following those instructions?” If we are being honest, the answer is often, “No. I’ve made up my own set of instructions for my relationships because God’s way won’t work for me.”
Over the course of the next couple of articles, let’s take a look at some of the most common “loopholes” in God’s design for relationships.
RELATIONSHIP LOOPHOLE #1…
“You have heard that it was said that relationships – especially those within the Church - should be easy, and if/when they get too hard, you can just give up.”
This mindset might also be phrased in the following ways:
“I shouldn’t have to work this hard to make my relationships work. If it’s going to be this hard, maybe it isn’t worth it.”
“I shouldn’t be having this many problems in my relationships, so I think I’ll just be by myself for a while and stop letting people into my life.”
“I’m giving up on people, especially Christians. It’s too much drama and it’s too complicated.”
But what does the Bible say about this? If Jesus were to respond to this mentality, He might say…
Relationships have NEVER been easy, and God never promised that they WOULD be!
Since the fall of man (Gen. 3), relationships have been messy, difficult, gut wrenching, and often heartbreaking. In addition to being the source of great joy and fulfillment, relationships are also minefields of distrust, jealousy, anger, insecurity, and “all manner of unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:29). The Bible has always presented relationships in this honest and realistic way, making no effort to whitewash, censor, or protect us from these challenges, and we would do well to remember this in our own lives. Consider what the apostle Paul said to the Ephesian Christians on this issue:
Ephesians 4:1-3 – “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
What does this passage teach us about relationships?
This passage assumes that relationships are going to be difficult, doesn’t it? Anything that requires humility, gentleness, patience, and “bearing with one another in love” will clearly not be easy!
The phrase translated “bearing with” is communicating the concept of “tolerance” (BDAG Greek Lexicon), and it literally means, to “put up with; bear with, endure, suffer” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon). This alone would be difficult to do in some of our relationships, but God also tells us that this must be done with “love” (agape). Love is not merely “tolerance” or “putting up with” someone, but it is a proactive pursuit to do what is best for the other person! Anyone who has ever loved in this way will tell you that it is anything BUT easy!
Many other passages and examples expose the lie behind this perceived loophole. Consider the following:
Jn. 15:18-19 – We will be “hated” by the world. How do we have relationships with those who desperately need the gospel, but who also hate us? Does this sound easy? Hardly.
Mt. 5:21-26 – It is our responsibility to place a high priority on our relationships with other Christians, to the point that we don’t even need to go to WORSHIP until/unless we have made things right in those relationships. Does this sound easy? How many of us actually do this?
Lk. 17:3-4 – Even if our brother sins against us “seven times in the day,” we are commanded to “forgive him” if he/she asks for it! Does this sound easy? The disciples responded to this by saying, “Increase our faith!” In other words, “This is going to be really hard! Help us!”
Regardless of what the world tells us, God tells us that relationships are not going to be easy; in any area of life. An easy relationship is almost certainly a shallow relationship; and though these kinds of relationships may not cause us any problems or make any demands on us, they will also never produce any of the benefits or blessings that God has built into biblical relationships!
Join us next time on “Loophole Hunters” when we will tackle RELATIONSHIP LOOPHOLE #2:
“You have heard that it was said that forgiveness and agape love are not required when someone has hurt ME.”