Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Functional vs. Relational

Well, here I am, along with my fellow Britons and sojourners under siege of snow! A dear friend of mine made me laugh when he said last night that an enemy need no bombs, planes or tanks to defeat us, just a simple snow machine.

Joking apart, it reminded me of Deuteronomy 32:28-30. Small things seem too much for us these days. Is there any stomach left in the people?

Anyway, that's not the point of this post. This is:

In the last 24hrs, I have been struck by how much we, as a nation, cast our identities in functional terms, and how this stands in opposition to the biblical revelation of being that defines us in the context of our relationships.

First, I was crawling to work yesterday and heard this (3:08) on the radio. N.B. I'm not blanket rubbishing all types of birth control. I just find it ugly, the way our culture talks about embryos and fetuses. We define them by what they can do. Since they can't do anything much, they are expendable, for the sake of us who can do so much and would be "put at risk" (whatever that means) having them around. Language that talks about the relationship that the little life has to it's mother (and father), and the responsibilities we hold for bringing them into existence, is usually nowhere to be heard.

Secondly, I watched Darwin's Struggle: The Evolution of the Origin of Species. According to him, those that do well, survive and rise to ascendancy. Those that don't end up as lunch. No love, no beauty. Life is war, every species for itself. Under the thin illusory veil of the beauty in the natural world, lies ultimate selfishness. I thank God that he was wrong. Yes life is war, but of a different kind.

Thirdly, I remembered reading Ravi Zacharias' autobiography: Walking from East to West: God in the Shadows. As an international speaker, he remarked that when you get introduced to audiences in the West, you are introduced in terms of your personal achievements - what you have done. In the East, you are introduced to the audience in terms of who you are related to; who you come from and who you have connections with.

Finally, I was pondering the up and coming sermon series at my church: Jesus, Money and Me. It struck me that the money I give, (or the treasure I store up in Heaven) must have a relational focus too, not a functional one. Of the four crowns that will be bestowed upon believers when they get to Heaven, none are given out for career success, productivity, mental brilliance or even sporting prowess! On the contrary, three are definitely for relational work and the fourth, whilst less obvious, is arguably relational too!
  1. The Crown of Righteousness - For those who love Jesus (relational)
  2. The Crown of Glory - For those who look after well those under their care (relational)
  3. The Crown of Rejoicing - For those who bring salvation to people (relational)
  4. The Crown of Life - For those who overcome in trials (relational in the sense that we continue to love those who persecute us, as well as relating to ourselves exerting godly control over our own passions)
That is not to say that we shouldn't give to, for example, building projects, but I know I need help to keep firm in my mind that the goal is not showing off, name making or empire-building, which pride would tempt me to do, but self-sacrificial love for God and people and waiting for Jesus' return.

In a week that has started with the media reporting relational meltdown in the UK (8:21), as parents forsake their children for personal gain; it's worth remembering that the only thing we will take from this life into the next, as Ann Atkins (God bless her) so refreshingly pointed out, is relationships.

God, enlarge my heart to love you and people more than me and my things!


Richard Walker said...

You can hear what Anne Atkins said by pasting the following link into RealPlayer:


Richard Walker said...

Atkins refers to Kahnerman's research on happiness here: