"Geese increase their flying range by seventy-one percent by flying in their "V" formation. As each bird flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the bird immediately following. When a goose gets out of line it immediately feels the added drag and rejoins the group. When the lead goose tires, it rotates to the back into the pack and another goose flies the point. The consistent willingness to lead and follow improves performance for the whole group. Geese honk from behind to encourage those in front to keep the pace. The followers cheer the leaders on. When a goose falls out of the formation two other geese follow it down to help and protect it until it recovers or dies. Only then will they leave it to launch out together or rejoin another formation. Yet, we as people are so smart we’ve figured out how to succeed in isolation and competition." (Condensed Chicken Soup for the Soul – Canfield and Hansen and The Leadership Bible)
The Bible is all about relationships – our vertical relationship with the Lord and our horizontal relationship with others. The Ten Commandments in the Old Testament and the Great Commandment in the New Testament emphasize love of God and love of neighbor. (Exodus 20:1-17; Matthew 22:37-39) Yet from the early chapters in the Bible (Genesis 3 and 4) from the fall of man through sin, we see blaming, denial, murder, polygamy, immediately manifested in the first family and their friends and then conflict and broken relationships all the way through the end of time as seen in The Book of Revelation. "But God" being rich in mercy and grace, love and faithfulness, forgives, redeems, reconciles and restores our relationship with Him through the death of His Son. "But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ." (Ephesians 2:13)
And then He gives us His good Spirit to empower us to forgive and love and be reconciled with each other. Loving relationships among His children is God’s great witness of His reality to a watching world who simply can’t get along with each other without His transforming power working in us. "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:35) "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. "If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother." (1 John 4: 7-10; 20-21)
In Ken Boa’s book, Conformed to His Image, he discusses five conditions that are necessary for a growing friendship, both with the Lord and with other people:
1. Both people must be willing to get to know each other. You can know someone only to the extent that he or she is willing to be known. One-sided relationships are always dead ends. Scripture makes it clear that God wants us to know Him. (God says, "Seek My face" Psalm 27:8) He is always initiating relationship with us and waits for our response. It begins with His invitation to us to receive eternal life (John 1:12) and then to continue to draw near to Him as His child and friend. (James 4:8)
2. Both people must gain personal knowledge of each other, i.e., not just know about them but know them personally. It would be like reading an in-depth biography of a person but never spending any personal time with them. Likewise with God, we can have sound theology and yet have little personal knowledge of God. "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." (John 17:3) The Greek word for "know" – ginoskosin – means intimate personal relationship.
3. A third condition for a growing relationship is openness, acceptance and forgiveness. People often put on a false front because they don’t want others to know who they really are because they fear rejection. As we offer acceptance and forgiveness (versus judgement) people feel safe to share their real selves. God, who knows us best (perfectly), loves us most (unconditionally- we are accepted in the Beloved – Christ; Ephesians 1:6).
4. A fourth condition is time spent in communication – talking, listening and sharing thoughts and feelings. Prayer is simply talking to God (praise, thanksgiving, requests, intercession for others, casting our cares upon Him) and listening to His voice through His Word and His Spirit, through other people, circumstances, etc.
5. Fifth, a growing relationship is developed through action – love must be demonstrated and expressed. The relationship grows as we respond to the needs and desires of one another. The same is true for God. He demonstrates His love and calls us to show our love to Him through trust and obedience. "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8) "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." (John 14:21)
"Again I saw something meaningless under the sun: There was a man all alone; Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." (See Ecclesiastes 4:7-12) As seen from this Scripture, we like the geese have much to gain by working together versus alone: 1) more profit (spiritual profit too), 2) help in difficulty, 3) comfort, 4) protection and 5) strength. (Three individual strands of string may be easily broken but wrap the three together and the three in one is much stronger.)
What keeps us separated from each other and causes us to lose the many blessings and benefits of mutually loving relationships? Maybe a regular review and application of the five conditions that foster growing relationships with God and others is a needed discipline. It’s obvious from Scripture, from history and from our own lives that we need a lot of help. "It is not good for the man to be alone." (Genesis 2:18)
Yours and His,
Len and Kristen