Building strong relationships is tough work. There can be miscommunication with my wife over our plans for the evening, a misunderstanding with a family member or friend over what was said, or even mistreatment from a co-worker because of a difference in opinion. With so many types of viewpoints, backgrounds and upbringings in our society, we often lose hope for genuine peace with those around us. We ask ourselves, “What is it going to take to make this relationship really work?” Thankfully, the Bible has an answer. It takes wisdom. But not just any wisdom. It takes “the wisdom that comes down from above.” It takes the wisdom of God.
The Wisdom of the Cross
If there is anything that we learn about God from the Bible it’s that He is all wise. So why does the Apostle Paul call the cross of Christ the wisdom and power of God (see 1 Cor. 1:18-24)? It’s because the evidence of wisdom is the ability to bring two things together – people with people, problems with solutions, etc. Put simply, wisdom always relates well. In order for any relationship to exist there must be some connection. In His infinite wisdom, God has restored the severed connection between Him and us caused by our sin through the cross of Christ. God solved the perceived problem of upholding His justice for our sin while at the same time displaying His love to us while we were yet sinners. The cross of Christ is the basis then for our permanent connection with God, but it is also the basis for a lasting connection with others. It is the cross that relates well.
The cross that brings true peace between God and us is the same power and wisdom that brings peace with one another. Yet, the Bible defines a wise person not as someone who knows a lot but someone who appropriately applies God’s truth to real life (see Matt.7:24). So what does it look like to apply the truth of the cross in our lives? Let me share a few ways the cross has helped me to more effectively relate with others.
The Power of the Cross
The Power for Humility: At the cross I see how desperate my condition really is and I see the humility of Christ in giving up His rights in order to redeem me. So the cross breaks down the dividing wall of hostility that pride can create and calls me to see my true condition apart from Christ. With just one honest look at the cross, I see that I need the same grace from God that He is calling me to extend to others, which calls me away from contempt to true humility.
The Power for Honesty: At the cross of Christ I see my new identity in God, and honesty has everything to do with identity. The reason we lie is because in that moment we’re trying to uphold an identity in something other than God. For example, if my identity is in being perceived as “the perfect pastor” then I might lie to my congregation to look better than I am. If my identity is in other’s approval of me, then I might lie to keep their respect. But the cross calls me to see that who God is for me in Christ and who I am in Him is more important than any other identity I could try and build for myself which then frees me to be honest with myself and with others.
The Power For Trust: At the cross I see the justice of God and the provision of God which shows me that I can leave judgment and vengeance in God’s hands knowing that one day He will perfectly right every wrong. The cross also frees me from having to manipulate people to meet my needs, for at the cross I see that if God met my ultimate need of salvation, then He will meet my immediate need in my current situation (see Rom.8:32).
The Power for Forgiveness: At the cross I see how to respond to mistreatment for I see Jesus, the only truly innocent person, crying out for forgiveness and releasing the hurt in His heart into the hands of His Father. True forgiveness always absorbs the cost. When I see Christ absorbing the cost of my sin at the cost of His life, I’m confronted with the truth that God has gone to the greatest length to forgive me of much and calls me to forgive as I have been forgiven. Moreover, those who have been forgiven much love much (Luke 7:47).
The Power For Love: At the cross I see the love of God –a genuine love that gives the best to those who are at their worst. Many of us have a slot machine approach to relationships. We want to put in as little as possible and get out as much as we can. We put in nickels and expect to get out rich relationships. But the cross tells us that in a world that barely gives their leftovers to their friends, God gave His best to His enemies. In a world that stretches out their hands only to take, Jesus stretched out His hands only to give.
The list could go on, but as we all work through the various pitfalls, joys, and challenges that old and new relationships bring us, even if a relationship needs to end for biblical reasons, may we know that there is hope. Because our hope is not in the wisdom of the world, our hope is in the wisdom of God. Our hope is the cross of Christ. So let’s begin by shifting our focus away from the specific relational problems and the sin of others and onto the cross, the only solution to transform our hearts, heal our wounds, and give us the wisdom and power to reach out and restore our broken connections.