To live out our relationships with others in a way that mirrors the example Christ set for us.
To recognize the reality of our relationship with creation.
God is an artist, and He desires for us to live in harmony with others and the world around us. Just as we yearn for our relationships with one another to be healed and restored, so does the rest of creation. It is important for us to respect and honor His creation.
Previously we examined what a redeemed Relationship with God and Self look like in the context of God’s Redemptive Mission. In this study, we will examine: Relationships with Others and Creation
As you prepare to examine your relationship with Others and Creation, we want to encourage you to enjoy this lesson in nature together, if weather and circumstances permit. Go on a picnic at the beach, go hike up a hill that overlooks your city, sit outside on your campus and enjoy the feel of wind on your face, etc.
In the New Testament alone, there are dozens of verses containing the word “one another,” describing how we are to be in our relationships with each other. Rather than being a peripheral issue, how we relate to one another both as individuals and as a society is a critical issue in our discipleship. This Willie James Jennings quote, from his commentary on the book of Acts, gets at the heart of believers’ relationships with one another.
“The prevailing fantasy of people is to have power over others, to claim the power of self-determination, and to make the world bow to its will. This is the fantasy of nations and clans, peoples and corporations. But the Spirit offers us God’s own fantasy of desire for people, of joining and life together and of shared stories bound to a new destiny in God. This desire for people is not the desire for their utility, but for their glory, to draw them into the divine pleasure and joy at the sight of the creature in communion and formed in hope. The disciples are to make evident divine desire, reveal it to be the central gift of the Spirit.”
How does this quote, especially shared stories bound to a new destiny in God, affect how you view relationships with others?
The following story in Mark 5 recalls how Jesus significantly heals a woman’s relationship to herself and others, and restores her place in society.
If you were in this woman’s shoes, how would you be feeling after 12 years of suffering and looking for healing?
Where are her friends and family in this passage? Who is supporting her? What conclusions do you draw from that?
As we read together, what relationship do you see in the passage? Where is there restoration in this story?
In verse 34, Jesus pronounces the woman healed but her healing had actually happened earlier in the passage, in verse 29. Why do you think Jesus draws attention to the woman, rather than letting her go on her way?
Because of this woman’s condition and the Levitical laws that required isolation for anyone who had “an issue of blood,” she would have been excluded from society, with no access to religious and social life. She comes to Jesus alone; we can’t be sure about all the reasons that may have been, but we can acknowledge that would have been culturally unusual in a patriarchal society. Women rarely had access to their own resources; they were typically provided for through a husband or sons. When we see that from the text that she had spent all she had and had no more resources, we get a picture of how desperate her situation must have been.
Jesus could have allowed her to go on her way. In fact, he had very little to do with her healing at all – the passage reads as if he is a passive, rather than active, participant. The woman’s faith led her to seeking Jesus out, despite the social risks that would have been present by showing up in such a crowded place as person who was considered by society to be unclean.
What do you think the woman is feeling as Jesus asks, “who touched me?” What are the risks involved for her? (vs 33)
What does Jesus accomplish by drawing attention to her? Why is it important that others know that she has been healed?
Jesus goes quite far in his counter-cultural attempts to honor this woman. For one, he chooses to draw attention to her when he could have chosen not to. Secondly, he attributes her healing to her faith and not his own power. In this society, women would not have been seen as having much to offer spiritually, yet he brings honor to her in this way. Finally, Jesus bestows upon her the title of, “daughter.” There is nowhere else in scripture that Jesus uses this familial title in his interactions.
While the woman had already acquired physical healing, there was an element of her suffering that could only have been addressed by this social healing. Through his actions, Jesus offers this woman a path back into society, to be seen and honored as the image-bearer that she is.
From the opening quote, the false idea of having power over others is central to the passage we just looked at, and what Jesus shows us in his actions that he is trying to subvert. In our relationships with one another, there is suffering and evil that exists not only in our interpersonal interactions, but in the oppression that our societies create. As believers, we are called to participate in healing and redemption in both spheres.
Jesus understood humanity’s relationship with the earth differently than we do. He spoke to the wind, to the water, and to trees; closely observed the habits of birds, flowers, and animals; and called his disciples to model their lives after what they saw in nature….Jesus understood the balance between the earthly and the heavenly realms, and he certainly understood the relatedness of both (“on earth as it is in heaven”). Jesus was firmly planted in the construct that “the earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it.”—Randy Woodley
Romans 8:18-25 and Genesis 2:15
When you think about creation, what comes to mind? Can you describe your relationship with creation?
In what ways have you seen brokenness in our relationship with creation (the environment, land, animals, etc.)?
Just as we suffer, creation suffers. In verses 21-22, it says that creation suffers futility, it groans with pain and is in bondage to corruption. As God created our world and everything in it, he said it is good. We see in Genesis how he puts us in the garden to work and take care of it. In our time on this Earth, we are to steward our time and resources in honoring God’s creation through the responsibility and ownership he gives us.
While we were created to be loving and wise stewards, we often contribute to the corruption of Creation and need to examine that relationship. The following activity helps us identify our contributions and how we can take action.
(Reference the Creation quadrant you created previously)
Open this activity and draw the collage onto your journal, or print it out. Follow the questions and directions on the top.
How did you feel as you made that collage?
Seeing how we contribute to the abuse of creation can be difficult to process. Rather than expecting your lifestyle to change overnight, make a list of things you will do that help you contribute to the healing of creation.
A few examples
Go to a farmer’s market and talk to farmers about their produce
Think about our ancestors and their relationship the land – what can we learn from them? what was life like?
Buy a plant (basil, rosemary, tomato?, etc.) – take care of it and when the time comes, use it in a dish and then share it with someone else
what are you learning about God and creation through this plant?
what are you learning about God and creation as you consume this plant?
what are you learning about yourself as you care for this plant?