Theme: Respect and Honor in Our Relationships
In this week’s lessons, we see how Christians are to regard and treat one another in the church.
Scripture: 1 Timothy 5:1-3
There are other relationships, as well, that are prominent in our world today. There are business or commercial relationships. There are people you see on a regular basis but don’t know in any kind of a personal way. For example, there’s the woman at the checkout counter in the market. You see the person once or twice a week, and you might get to know them on a very shallow level. You extend a few pleasantries, and maybe exchange a bit of neighborhood news. But most of your relationship with her has to do with her ringing up your merchandise on her machine, and your giving her money, and her putting it in the drawer and then putting your groceries in the bag. And then as you go out the door, you say that you’ll see her next week.
There are relationships in the military, with the whole system of rank determining what kind of relationship exists between the various levels of authority. There are relationships on a sports team. There are of course the relationships among the players themselves, which get expressed both on and off the field. And for professional teams, you have various levels of management, including the owners, as well as the managerial staff who are on the field or the sidelines and are most directly involved with the game itself. There are various levels of relationships in this kind of situation. There is a very different relationship within a club, where everybody gets together and composes a charter, and where people share an interest and pull their resources for mutual benefits.
Unfortunately, there are people who have construed the church of Jesus Christ using secular ideas of relationships. Some have used the church for what they can get from it. They expect the church to satisfy their needs and do for them what they want. But there’s no real thought about what they ought to be giving to the church, and there’s certainly no sense of commitment. If the church doesn’t do everything they want, well, they will just break off the relationship with that church and go somewhere else.
Some think of the church as a business relationship. If they put money in the plate, they think that they are entitled to get a certain amount of benefit. And if they feel as if they are not getting their money’s worth, they will go shopping around. They will try to find a church where they believe they will get more for their money. In this kind of thinking, one of two things can happen. Either they will judge that they are getting more for their money, or if not, they will give less money.
Another possible view people might have of the church fits more the military model. They may have been at a church in the past where the leaders were too authoritarian, and even dictatorial, and the rest of the congregation felt like lowly privates who were expected to fall in line and do what they were told. Now certainly the Bible does talk about leadership in the church. It would not function as well if everyone thought they had the same amount of authority as a general. Not everyone can be a leader; not everyone is gifted in that way. Nevertheless, the Bible gives instruction for how leaders in the church are supposed to behave, and how they are to treat others who are not leaders.
Or perhaps other people view the church as a kind of social club—a place where they might be able to foster business relationships or improve their reputation or status in the community. In some communities, there might even be a church or denomination where the town’s prominent church-going residents are encouraged to join, simply for these social reasons. Churches can be used for all sorts of reasons, many of them contrary to what the Bible teaches.
Paul says that these worldly approaches to relationships are not what our relationships are to be. Our relationships are to be as a properly functioning family. Each member is to receive due respect that pertains to the various relationships within the church. We are to treat older members honorably, as we would our own fathers and mothers. And when we deal with younger people, we want to regard them as brothers and sisters and to treat them with the kind of purity and respect that we would expect to use with members of our own family.
Paul uses the image of the family to describe proper relationships among Christians. What other images do people think of regarding church relationships, and how do they harm true Christian church life and fellowship?
What does a healthy church look like when its relationships to each other are what we see laid out in Scripture?
Reflection: Is your own church healthy, both in its doctrine and church life? Why or why not? How can you help to bring improvement? Are there any relationships between yourself and another that are strained and need reconciliation?
For Further Study: Download and listen for free to Donald Barnhouse’s message, “Responsibility for Christ’s Flock.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)