It is one thing to enjoy the company of others around us. But some people have a wonderful way of creating deep personal relationships. They know how to draw out the other, laugh and cry, share their feelings. In marriage there is all the difference between the instant chemistry of falling in love, and a lasting marriage based on the ability to create a mutual heart to heart relationship.
At another level we see individuals who become the center of a group of friends wherever they go. There are those who just by their presence create a literary, artistic, musical, religious, or political circle which exerts a huge influence in the world. Without that creator of relationships the group would soon disintegrate into factions and unhappy ineffective individuals.
A company in the business world can be held together as a group of fawning servants terrified by a ruthless CEO (Chief Executive Officer). They could also become a group of enthusiasts who enjoy relating to one another to produce superlative results. But that only happens around a person who loves to create a network of freedom and intertwined relationships.
Using that familiar picture of the person who excels in creating relationships, we can expand the picture to think of the second Person of the Trinity as the one who loves by doing this among humans everywhere. We did not invent this ability to create personal and social relationships. It is given to us. And every good relationship is an expression of His grace. That gives another avenue into our lives for the Creative Love of God.
It is what Paul meant by "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ." Paul remembers it in all his epistles (Romans 1:5, 1 Corinthians 16:23, 2 Corinthians 13:13, Galatians 1:6, 6:18, Ephesians 2:8, 6:24, Philippians 4:23, 1 Thessalonians 5:28, 2 Thessalonians 3:18, Philemon 5:25, and in three cases he ends with "The grace be with you" (1Timothy 6:3, 2 Timothy 4:22, Titus 3:15, see Hebrews 13:25 - the Greek has the definite article which is missed by NRSV).
At the personal level the Son of God is pictured in the Bible as longing to enter into a personal relationship with humans. The Jewish philosopher Martin Buber called this an "I and Thou" experience (Ich und Du, 1923, I and Thou, 1937). We suddenly sense that God is treating us as a friend, and we find ourselves responding to His invitation. We can also refuse the friendship of the Son of God. This is pictured in the story of the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve "heard the sound of the Lord God walking in garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden" (Genesis 3:8). One of the sweetest of relationships is that of friends going out for an evening walk together. And here the Son of God wants to walk with this couple, but they prefer to avoid that very personal relationship.
In the New Testament the Son of God is called "The Word of God" (John 1:1-2). The term suggests the Son's personal communication with his human friends. This is not to suggest that the Father and the Holy Spirit do not communicate with us. But the communication of the Father is more like parents communicating with their children as part of the loving environment they have created. In some cases a parent might go on to become a son or daughter's best friend, but by then the environment creating role of a parent has already changed. Similarly the Holy Spirit also speaks to us (see chapter 3), but we will use the images of inspiration and various kinds of creativity to describe that different kind of relationship.
Among humans we noted the rare gift of those who are able to create a circle of friends. On a larger scale we noted the wonder of a successful business enterprise characterized by warm trust and freedom and enjoyment of each other. In his life on earth the Son of God is pictured as creating a circle of disciples. "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35).
Half way through his ministry he said "I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18). That church has been established in many countries and with many different styles of organization. Admittedly the local congregations often fail to exemplify the loving relationships that the Son intended. But at least they accept the ideal of their Lord, and at their best they look to Him for the renewal of their love for one another. And when they pray they experience His creative intervention. Churches are certainly imperfect, but there is often much more grace behind the scenes than we imagine. Philip Yancey wrote "I rejected the Church for a time because I found so little love there. I returned because I found grace nowhere else" (What is so Amazing about Grace, 1977, p.16).
In the next chapter we will see how the Holy Spirit works with the Son by giving the special gifts that are needed for individuals to share in the work of creating relationships. "The gifts that he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ" (Ephesians 4:11-12). How these and other gifts of the Spirit actually function was described in The Church: An Organic Picture of its Life and Mission, Eerdmans, 1968, which is up on this site.
Roughly we might say that an Apostle has the gift of bringing new congregations into being. A prophet is able to "speak to other people for their upbuilding and encouragement and encouragement and consolation" (1 Corinthians 14:3). Evangelists are the sales force of the church as they go out to announce the good news in the surrounding area. Pastors have a shepherd heart to care for the wounded. And teachers know how to explain the Bible's teaching on our relationship with others and with God. Each of these is an expression of the grace of Jesus the Messiah as He builds his church. And all of these and other gifts of the Spirit are involved in freeing people in different ways. This must have been part of what Jesus had in mind when He said, "If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36).
Chapter 3 .....