“Being in relationship is what’s important, isn’t it?”
Every so often I am confronted by the question found in the title of this blog. Sometimes it comes as a comment rather than a query. What is being said is that “Being in relationship is what really matters. We shouldn’t let boundaries or structures weaken our connection with another! If a relationship is to continue, any structure has to take a back seat.”
I have to say up front… I’m not there! I believe that relationship is very important but relationships need to be healthy. And healthy relationships include honesty, integrity and transparency. Wholesome connections need boundaries. Close relationship with another should allow for truth to be spoken both ways.
Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada Credential Holders are at the time of annually renewing their credential. As a PAOC Credential Holder, I am in a relationship with this fellowship I choose to be under and that involves the structures and requirements I agreed to when I initially applied for a credential and as I renew it. And here is where the conversations I mentioned sometimes take place. It boils down to this – “If structure is going to get in the way of us having connection, then we need to sort of ignore that structure.” I guess that means we kind of pretend it just doesn’t exist.
I find that structure and boundaries become most distasteful for me when they cause discomfort and restrict what I want to be or do. In other words, when I don’t like them, I would rather get rid of them. As long as they don’t hinder or confine me, then they’re okay. Or maybe I have come to a new place that cause me to think those boundaries are no longer correct. If that is the case, I need to rethink my connection, not ignore the structure.
From where I sit, relationships are enhanced not diminished by boundaries. In my human frailty, I need structure.
1 John 1:6-7 says “If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” The key in this passage is “if we walk in the light”. My relationship with Jesus is blessed through my obedience to His commands. That sounds a lot like requirements. Galatians 5:25 teaches “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Keeping in step likely entails some boundaries. My relationship to God does not take a front seat and my obedience to Him a back seat. They are really like a hand in a glove. They fit tightly together. Jesus says in John 14:15, “If you love me, keep my commands.”
Now I am the first one to champion that we must not allow difference in either opinion or belief to make us devalue another human being. We must respect one another even when we see things differently. We know that the Body of Christ goes beyond the borders of believing in Pentecostal doctrine. While I deeply value my life in the Spirit, I will never push away those in Christ’s Church who have a different belief or passion than I do. I want to embrace others who have the same foundational beliefs of the acceptance of Jesus as Saviour and a personal relationship with Him as Lord, even if they do not hold to my distinct PAOC theology.
Even when it comes to those who are in a complete opposite perspective of my Biblical and Christian beliefs, I still cannot shun them or refuse to have connection with them. My relationship with them will possibly be at a different level than with those who have common Biblical belief and practice. 2 Corinthians 6:14 teaches that we are not to “… be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” The word “yoked” implies a connection where both parties are affected and benefit through the relationship. So that means relationship with those who are not filled with the Light, will be at a different level than with those that are.
So let me get back to why I am writing this blog.
For relationship to flourish, I must honour the requirements and boundaries that were foundational in establishing that relationship. And if my commitment to those boundaries change, very likely the relationship will change to another level. For example, in my marriage, I agreed that “looking” at other women will not show value to my wife and it will not be healthy for my marriage. Needless to say, it will not be honoring to the Lord nor will it be healthy for my own spiritual life. So I honour that boundary. If I do not, my relationship with my wife (and the Lord) will suffer and become damaged.
As a Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada Credential Holder, I must honour the beliefs, boundaries and requirements established in The Statement of Fundamental and Essential Truths and the General Constitution & By-Laws. If I do not, I need to rethink my connection with the PAOC fellowship. That wouldn’t necessarily mean I cease to be a valuable servant of the Lord or a follower of Christ. But my connection to this “family” may cease because either I have moved or the family moved from the originally agreed upon necessities of belonging to this tribe. And unless we can come to an agreement, our connection will change. I can’t just pretend that the structures don’t exist.
So at this time of our annual credential renewal, we need to honour and acknowledge what we are committing to as a PAOC Credential Holder. We need to value our connection and relationship. But values and boundaries are not excused. I may still have a connection, but it may not be to the same close degree it once was.