More and more I’m realizing that relationships are the stuff of life. We find the highest joys and deepest hurts as the quality of our relational interaction ebbs and flows. When we think about the struggles or questions that occupy our attention these days, behind it all we can probably discern a strained relationship as a root cause.. (And if not, there’s definitely a relationship impacted by it all as collateral damage.) Relationships matter to us, and they should because we’re created in the image of a relational God.
As we saw in last week's post, when Jesus approached ministry, He took interest in people and their longings first. He then looked for ways to minister to their felt needs. As we explore the opening chapters of the gospel of John over the next few weeks, we’ll discover that Jesus modeled a holistic ministry, one that understood the whole person and engaged the entirety of the human experience.
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.”
Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” ...
Jesus said to [the servants], “Fill the waterpots with water.” John 2:1-5, 7, NKJV
JESUS TO THE RESCUE
The young couple so enamored by future together hardly seemed aware of their present failing. But Mary, likely an involved and invested relative, understood the situation for what it was. Though there had been months of planning and anticipation, the logistics of the social high point in this couple’s life had come had fallen short of the social norm/expectation. They had run out of wine, and should the problem not be addressed, it would reflect upon the couple as being inconsiderate and ill-prepared.
Jesus didn’t have to step in. And He most definitely didn’t want to step in…at least in the crowd-pleasing way or with the Messiah-proving effect that His mother Mary had in mind. But He did it anyway. He anonymously intervened simply because He sympathized with the couple’s social need on their big day, and He even allowed the groom to get the credit for the not-so-anonymous impact.
Jesus came to the rescue. He saved them…and in this case it was saving face. He saved them socially, and that was it.
Sure, many spiritual parallels and analogies can be drawn to reveal the power of Jesus to save from sin, to turn people from the lifeless Jewish cleansing ceremonies to the saving power of His blood, etc., etc. But on that day and for that couple, Jesus came to their social rescue.
Have you ever found yourself in a socially awkward situation? Maybe you’ve come short of what’s expected of you in your relationships. Or maybe there’s tension in other ways that threaten your sense of social comfort. Whatever the particulars, these are situations where relief is needed, resources are wanted, and help is welcomed. Apparently, Jesus is willing to step into those social insufficiencies, and I believe His followers ought to be willing too.
APPROACHING RELATIONAL MINISTRY
What are the needs that you observe when it comes to the relational, interpersonal, social dynamics your friends face? In my context, what stands out most is people’s underlying sense of loneliness even though we’re surrounded by lots of activity/noise. Many feel an ache for companionship and not just crowds. Maybe we ought to plan our ministries around satisfying people’s hunger for belonging even before their need for change in their believing and behaving. More than planning socials, God wants His church to be sociable, genuinely interested in and actually present with one another, cultivating a magnetic sense of community that draws others in as if they've always belonged.
Another area of relational need that I come across frequently in my own experience and in others around me is that of communication. We can all use some help communicating more effectively and enjoyably -- whether at home, church, work, school, you name it. We tend to think we understand people better than we really do and wish that others would understand us better than we think they do. Then there's the drama that never fails to flare up, and were we to take an honest look, we'd find that those struggles usually start with or perpetuate because of miscommunication and misunderstanding. Why not build into our discipleship curriculum meaningful discussions around practical communications skills, how to deal with difficult people, and navigating redemptive conflict resolution?
Let's strive to grow not just in the knowledge of our Lord but also, as Peter says, in the grace of our Lord and Savior (2 Pet. 3:18)...including the social graces of our King. As disciples of the One who made relationships in the Garden and restores relationships through the gospel, may God use us to bring healing to the relational needs in our midst.