I was just out of college. It was my first ministry. My mentor, the Lead Pastor of the church I was serving, helped me through a broken engagement. After it was over, he wrote me a handwritten note. In it he talked about how important it is to share deeply with a friend when you are emotionally shaken. He ended the letter with this simple invitation: “You can puke on me anytime!”
Authentic relationships are vital to healthy living. We were created for authentic relationships. First with God and then with one another. When God created man, He put Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Under His provision and protection, God met all their needs: Spiritual, Relational, Emotional, Intellectual, and Physical. Authentic relationships engage all of these.
Have you ever heard of the concept of a 2AM friend? I am not talking about a hook up. I am talking about someone you can call at 2AM and know they will be there for you. Although I don’t know where this idea originated, I learned this idea from my new friend Jeff Pinkleton with The Gathering of the Miami Valley.
We need a couple of friends in our life who can speak the truth in love to us, point out our blind spots, and we will listen to because we know they love us! I call these authentic relationships
In 2 Corinthians 6:3-12, Paul is writing to his friends in Corinth. In this section of the letter Paul lays out five Core Concepts of Authentic Relationships. These are not the only principles of authentic relationships, but they are central to experience healthy ones. (Scriptures below are quoted from the NIV)
- Submission (v3-5) “We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. 4Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; 5in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger;”
In Ephesians 5:21, Paul begins his discussion on the most intimate of all human relationships marriage with the idea of mutual submission. He says we are to submit to one another out of reverence to Christ. When I think of mutual submission, the Disney Chipmunks Chip and Dale come to my mind. I see them stuck at a doorway, each insisting the other go in first. Well this is not what Paul means at all, but it is funny!
I heard Andy Stanley say once that submitting to one another doesn’t make sense to the world, but it is the Kingdom way. Putting the other person first trusting God to meet your needs just as the other person is putting you first trusting God for theirs.
- Love (v6-7) “in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; 7in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left;”
The Bible says God is love. He is the standard for love. He powers love. Authentic relationships are love relationships, not necessarily romantic, but love relationships all the same. Telling someone you love them is important but the tangible actions of love are the proof behind the words.
- Commitment (v8-9) “through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; 9known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed;”
In a disposable world, commitment is a rare commodity. Authentic relationships work through the messiness of relationships. They don’t just throw them away. They value the other person over being right. They think the best of the person. They risk speaking the truth in love.
- Compassion (v10) “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”
There is sympathy (recognizing someone’s pain). There is empathy (hurting with someone). And then there is compassion (community + passion). I define compassion as “entering into the intensity of someone’s pain with them.”
- Vulnerability (v11-12) “We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. 12We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. 13As a fair exchange—I speak as to my children—open wide your hearts also.”
We should always be genuine. However, the level of vulnerability we offer is in direct proportion to the safety within a relationship. That is why, while I can be genuine in a large crowd, it is not safe to be completely vulnerable. But in a group of 2 or 3 same gender friends or with your spouse, you can become transparent. Is there risk, absolutely. But the potential fruit is worth the risk.
Authentic Relationships Are the Proving Ground of Faith.
Since we were created for intimate relationships with God and with one another, it makes sense that our deepest relationships are where we see faith lived out in its most personal expression. Why? there are two reasons:
#1. Relationships equip us to love God. If I cannot relate to my closest friends I can see and touch, how am I going to relate to the invisible God of the universe? I know our friends and family are broken just like we are, but even in their brokenness, these relationships teach us the skills we need to relate to our Father who is perfect.
#2. Relationships are where we express our love for God. The first and greatest commandment in the Bible is to love God and the second is like it, love our neighbor. We live out our faith in our interactions with others. God expresses His love for them through us!
Without fences or a hitching post to tie a horse’s lead rope, a horseman will hobble her horse. By tying the front feet together with a short length of rope, the horse can move around to graze without being able to travel too far to be caught.
Here is an exercise to assist in application:
- Which core concept above is “hobbling” you in your relationship with God? It might help to mark your strengths and weaknesses, then decide which one God wants to strengthen in your life.
- With God’s help, how can you develop that core concept within a human relationship?
Finally, talk to your 2AM friend about what you think God is asking you to do? Go ahead you can puke on them!