Christianity provides a relational list of resources that draws people today just as it did in the first century. Real spiritual relationships with “one-another’s” occur in a relational setting with five interwoven threads. We will look at these in this and the next four articles.
The first thread is: relationships must deepen to grow.
Thinking of these five threads attached to a fence to provide the structure for the growth of a vine, we should see the vine as the relationship that attaches itself to the threads to grow relationships of integrity and truth in a world that has no integrity and only occasional glances at the truth.
In order to get deeper, you have to get dirty.
A pastor from a small church off North Shepherd went to visit a new church member at the garage where he worked. When the pastor tried to shake hands with the mechanic, the mechanic pulled his hand away and said “whoa, pastor I can’t shake your hand. They are all greasy.” So the pastor grabbed an oily rag and wiped his hands and extended it again and said “Let’s try this again.”
Deepening growth has been defined as “digging in the dirt.” Plants must first grow downward before they can grow upward. Dirty hands, sore bent knees, water and mud, and clearing the clay and rocks are what produce the colorful blooming relationships.
It is oftentimes hard to understand that moving in a downward direction is positive. We are used to thinking of God as above us but seldom think about under us. God is not only “overarching” but is “undergirding”. For our relationships to be fruitful, they must first be rooted. They must be rooted in the soil of the Spirit. Fruit begins at the roots.
The Bible shares the story of the one true god who left the clean for the dirty. In the greatest deepening of a relationship in history, God came to this big dirt clod called earth and became one of us. But that was not deep or dirty enough; he fell to His knees and washed the disciples’ feet, the blisters, corns, ingrown toenails, fungus and all. He did what no other rabbi would even think to do. He washed the feet of His students. He got His hands wet and dirty.
His goal was not to keep His hands clean but to clean the hearts of mankind. He became dirty so that we could through a relationship with Him become clean. Way too many of us are wearing gloves and trying to keep our hands clean when one day God will check to make sure there is dirt under our fingernails.
The Master of all became the Servant of all. The word servant actually means to “wait tables.” For the church it means that rather than hurry to get a chair at the table, we should be pulling the chair out for others to take a seat, filling water glasses, serving and bussing the tables.
If you think this kind of attitude and action will damage your status, dignity, or respectability, think about this: what happens to your dignity when you are hung nearly naked, beaten and bloody on a tree surrounded by criminals? What does it say about your status when you are on your knees washing dirty smelly feet? What is respectable about being born in a manger?
A second trait of a deepening relationship is that we get rooted together. That is to say, that our roots and thus our lives become intertwined together in the rich soil of the Spirit.
The church is the place where we learn to forgive and serve. It is the place where gifts are grown and exchanged. It is a foretaste of the Kingdom that is to come. It is the place where the Spirit transcends and moves about drawing us both to Him and each other.