The Power of Togetherness
The relationship is the ministry. Human beings were made for relationship. Having relationships is essential to human flourishing because we were created with relationship at the core of our being. “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness'” (Gen. 1:26a). This gives us several principles upon which to expand this core value of “relationship”.
First, each individual person is worthy of relationship as a creational right. A person’s humanness gives them a right to enter into relationships and have others engage them in relationship. This means that one of the most foundational needs in humanity is the need for relationship. This is also the most foundational poverty, a lack of relationship. The isolated, alone, or abandoned person is not suffering merely because of the absence of physical resources. She is suffering because her very created nature as it was designed to be, is lacking an essential substance, relationship with others. A sub-principle of this, is that no one is capable of negating the creational right to relationship. Because relationship is a matter of essence (who we are) rather than performance (what we’ve done), we can’t earn or lose the right to relationship. Every human on the planet is equally granted the right to relationship and the need for relationship to fully flourish. But how is this need met? How is this right honored?
Second, the family is the bedrock of all other relationships. When we consider the Biblical injunction to care for widows and orphans, what is striking is the common element of an implied family relationship. A widow is a wife with no husband and an orphan is a child with no parent. Why does God single out widows and orphans as two of the major categories of persons for which he is concerned? Because family restoration is the center of God’s agenda. Indeed, family restoration is the central drive of the story of the gospel. This gives us another reason for why relationship is such a critical core value, the theology of the core value of relationship is our sonship with God. The sociology of the core value of relationship is family restoration.
But this leads us to an even more prominent question, how is such restoration to be made possible? The answer is through the church. Much “family ministry” becomes too deeply focused on the nuclear family unit and the avoidance of tragedy striking it through divorce or child rebellion. This tragically misses God’s provision for family restoration. The church is the redeemed family and is commissioned by God to cover families in mercy and grace. Particular focus is brought by 1 Timothy 5:4 as Paul gives instructions for the care of widows, “But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God.” Paul is instructing the church on how it is to focus its energies and resources. If a widow has opportunity to be cared for by children or grandchildren, that is wonderful, let them care for her. The church is to focus on the legitimate gaps that exist in families and to step into those gaps and provide resources and relationship.
Third, the church is the new relationship, the restored family. Jesus himself illustrates how the church is to be considered when, after his ministry has begun, his mother and brothers approach him, “While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!” For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother”” (Matthew 12:46-50). Jesus incredibly elevates his disciples in prominence over over his biological family. How is that possible if the family is the bedrock of all relationships? Because only the people of God can restore the creational and biological family to wholeness. Only through the acts of justice and righteousness prescribed to the widow, the orphan, and others can the family begin to flourish.