Dysfunctional Relationships

We live in a society where dysfunctionality has become the norm. Our friendships, our families, our own lives, and the lives of our churches all seem to be failing to live up to the standard intended for them.

Just two weeks ago there were two stories in the media about failed friendships. You might've heard of both of these. First,Jose Canseco turned tail on all of his friends in the clubhouse and ratted on them about steroid use. Not only did he betray the code of the clubhouse, in which players aren't supposed to tell what goes on there, but more importantly, he betrayed the code of friendship. We shouldn't air our friends dirty laundry in public in order to make a buck. There might be reasons for us to air our friends problems in public in order to help them, but never should we do it for our own selfish gain.

But Jose Canseco's story isn't the only story of betrayed friendship. The other happened with our President, George Bush. Little did, at the time, Governor Bush know that his phone calls with his friend Doug Wead were being recorded by him. Another friend betrayed for personal profit.

And the weird thing is that both people tried to justify their selfishness and call it something else. To Jose Canseco, it was standing up for the integrity of the game. For Doug Wead, it was for the sake of history. If it was for some reason other than selfish gain, then why didn't they betray their friendships for free. Sadly, they both used their friendships in the past for personal gain in the present. For them, it seems that friendships have become nothing more than a rung in the ladder on the way to success.

Then if you turn your television on to be entertained during the evening you are bound to run across dysfunctional relationships. We used to watch the reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond frequently. That was until Isaac became addicted to Wheel of Fortune. In Raymond, you see a dysfunctional family at work. You see everyone looking to be more exalted than the other. Everyone wants to be the apple in everyone else's eye. Instead of being a loving family, they are a jealous family. Although it makes for some good laughs, it shows how how commonplace dysfuncionality has become in our culture.

Take a newer show for instance. According to Jim is, I hope, an extreme case of dysfunctionality. In it we have everyone constantly lying and deceiving one another in order to get their way. I remember in one episode Jim created a fictitional college friend in order to have nights away from the family and do whatever he wants. Although it might be funny on television, it is tragic when people deceive one another in order to get their own selfish way.

Galatians 6:1-10

1 My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. 2 Bear one another's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves. 4 All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbor's work, will become a cause for pride. 5 For all must carry their own loads. 6 Those who are taught the word must share in all good things with their teacher. 7 Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. 8 If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. 9 So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. 10 So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.

The sad thing is that the dysfunctionality of our relationships isn't something that we only observe in the news or on the television during the evenings. It is something we experience day in and day out. We live in a society of failing relationships. We see people lie, cheat, or manipulate in order to get their own way. Sometimes we might even do it.

It would be sort of comforting, almost fine, if the dysfunctional relationships stopped at the churches across this land, but they don't. The church has succumbed to the pull of people's selfishness time and time again. We do things selfishly. We have failed to do the things which the verse we read today states we should. We usually don't restore our brother's or sister's when we see them in a transgression; we just allow them to wallow in their sin and proclaim that it is their right of privacy. We disguise our selfishness just like Jose Canseco and Doug Wead with a much grander label, respect. But the most respectful thing to do is to help a brother or sister out of their struggle than to allow them to wallow in their sin. It says that "all must carry their own loads" but that doesn't give us a reason to ignore the statement just before it that we are to help restore those we notice caught in a transgression.

Another thing the church fails at is acknowledging and living as if we are truly a "family of faith". Too often we compare ourselves to failing churches. It would be like judging whether Lindsay, Isaac, Eli, and I have a healthy family based upon a comparison between my family and those on the television in the evening. We need to always compare ourselves and our church to the ideal. Paul wrote, "All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbor's work, will become a cause for pride." He's saying that each man should examine his own conduct for himself. Don't compare yourself to others. Compare yourself to the ideal. Then you can measure yourself. Then your work, which should be the work of God, is something you can be proud of and boast about because you will not be boasting about yourself, but you will be boasting about the work of God. Paul wrote about boasting more than a few times. For example in Romans 15:17-18 Paul wrote: "In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to boast of my work for God. For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to win obedience from the Gentiles, by word and deed." And in 1 Corinthians 1:31 he wrote: "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord."

When we compare ourselves with other fallen humans rather than the ideal, we will always fail to reach that which God intended for us. What we need to do is stop comparing ourselves to those around us and start comparing ourselves to the ideal. In so doing, we will see that we are really no less selfish than the Jose Canseco's and Doug Mead's of this world. We will see that our church is just as dysfunctional of a family than that of Raymond's and Jim's. When we compare ourselves, not to one another, but the ideals God has planned for us, we are all failures.

Thankfully, we serve a God of second chances. (Onto point 2 tomorrow.)

Watch out for the potholes.