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The Theology of Relationship

Updated: Sep 19, 2020

Have you ever experienced something so difficult that it caused you to question your faith? Maybe it was a loss of a loved one, a divorce that you cannot accept, or a personal tragedy that caused you a great deal of physical, emotional, or spiritual harm. Most individuals try to remain faithful, and openly confess statements like, “There are some things we are just not meant to understand.” Yet, when one is honest with one’s self, we all have times when we may want to shake our fist at the sky and scream something like, “God, why did you let this happen?”

Christians believe that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving. The Bible supports these beliefs with verses like Matthew 19:26, 1 Corinthians 2:10–11, and Romans 5:8. However, if God’s knowledge is not subject to time, and God can see into the future, then why wouldn’t an all-powerful, all-loving God stop the tragedy before it happens? It is the opinion of this author that God created humanity for the purpose of relationship with God, and true relationship cannot happen without choice. Choice sometimes brings tragedy.

David’s beautiful hymn recorded in Psalm 139:6 affirms, “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them” (ESV). God could see David prior to his conception, and that is certainly also true for Adam and Eve. Yet, God created Adam and Eve, and immediately told them not to eat or even touch the tree that is in the middle of the garden. This created a choice. Adam and Eve could either trust God or choose not to obey. Either way, they had to make a choice, and this necessity to choose created a relationship. Once they choose negatively, they immediately hid because they instinctively knew that they had negatively impacted the relationship. God is love, and it was and is God’s desire to have relationship with us. Yet, God must give us the choice to be or not be in relationship with God. Without a choice, we are simply God’s robots and you can’t relate to a robot.

Contrast God’s loving invitation with the actions of Ariel Castro. Castro kidnapped three young ladies and held them captive for over 10 years in Ohio. No one, except Castro, would call the time those young ladies spent with him a relationship because they did not have a choice but to remain there. Even though God is all-powerful, if God used all of God’s power to require us to follow God, then God would be just like Castro. Of course, that is not God’s nature. Therefore, from the beginning of time, God has known that the choice for humans to be or not be in relationship with God was required for God not to violate His own nature by making all of us robots. This is what Dr. Frank Tupper calls God’s “purposeful self-limitation of God’s own power” in his book, Scandalous Providence.

God allows us the freedom to make choices that are in our own best interest, and choices that ultimately harm us. We can choose to have a poor diet, not exercise, and smoke. God also allows us and others the freedom to make choices that may positively or negatively impact others. Therefore, when bad things happen, they are often the negative consequences of our own actions or the actions of others. God does not intentionally create heartache for us without a purpose, such as increasing our faith. When we are angry, hurt, confused, or any other emotion associated with a tragedy, God wants us to trust Him enough to openly share those feelings. God can handle any feeling we have. God always does all God can to help in a situation within God’s own self-imposed “purposeful limitation.” When God is not able to do more, because of those self-imposed limitations, God suffers with us through the struggle. The evidence of that is the Cross. Take all of your struggles, including your difficult emotions, to the Cross and let God love you and relate to you by giving you peace that passes all understanding.

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