Healthy, Devoted Relationships

Telling People What to Do? Or "Laying Bare the Motives of the Heart"?

There is such a thing as an unhealthy relationship, however. I'll give you one case in point.

Was it Jesus' idea that people go out two-by-two to do the work of God? Yes, it was Jesus' idea. Does that mean that three people can't go out? I don't think so. Does that mean that Paul never went out by himself? Well, Paul was a man of considerable stature—he watched dead men be raised—and a revelation surpassing, in many ways, even that of Peter and John, men who walked with the Lord Himself. By his own admission in Ephesians 3 and Peter's admission in 2 Peter 3, Paul was a man of great revelation, having been caught up into the third heaven. If you follow him around in the recorded account of his life in Acts and various places in his letters, you can count almost fifty people who were with him over the course of his journeys. Not all of his companions were together at the same time, but there was a continual flow of two or three or four or six people with him as he went from city to city. As far as I know, there was only one time during his twenty-five year history as recorded by the Holy Spirit, where we find him alone in a city. He traveled by foot overland, for some reason known only to him and God, and had his friends go by ship to meet him down the coast. I don't know of another place where we can find him alone, anywhere during a twenty-five year period.

So, is it a good idea that we be together? Certainly it is a good idea. "Where two or three are gathered in My name, there I Am." Why didn't He say, "Whenever anybody has the Holy Spirit, there I Am"? He could have said that, in one sense, because it is true. But why does He "force" two or three to be together? "Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them" (Matthew 18:19-20). Why did He say that? Because Jesus wants to drive us together in loyalty and in trust. He knew that we would be an offense to one another and that we'd have to learn the way of the cross. That's why He almost bribes us to be together.

Jesus sent them two-by-two for solid reasons: so that they would be accountable to one another, so that they could pray together, so that they could lift each other up when the enemy attacked. Jesus Himself very seldom went anywhere alone. Even in His greatest, deepest agony, He had three brothers a stone's throw away. He wouldn't even go further than a few paces away, Himself, from three brothers at that most agonizing moment, knowing full well they didn't have really much of an idea what was going on. He still walked with them.

Of course, He did also pray alone. He taught us that there are times to go alone into your closet and pray, where no one can see or hear you. That's all valid; I'm not minimizing it.

But I'm saying there's something that's captured us over the years in the place where I live. We've seen what it's like when instead of one person going alone to speak at a church in another city, six or eight brothers and sisters go to that city together. We've seen God work through it in an amazing way. It's the biblical pattern, and that's a good reason. There are commands about it and promises related to it. Those are all good reasons. We've seen the fruit of it, too. When somebody's off in the back room trying to help a marriage that's just about to blow up, there are also four or five other people in the living room—teaching, mutually encouraging, and worshipping with them. That way there's accountability. There's no braggadocio on the one hand and no depression on the other. There's none of the massive temptation that happens to brothers going it alone without brothers and sisters around to help them overcome when it's necessary. God's pattern is real, God's promises are real, and the fruit of doing it God's way is very real.

However, let me tell you about the pitfalls. Again, healthy, devoted relationships are great. Going two-by-two is also great. But as soon as you say you have to go two-by-two or else it's sin, you've overstepped your bounds. Is going two-by-two valid? Is it a gift from God? Is it precious? Are there promises associated with it? Are there commands associated with it? Absolutely. But when we speak of it to others, it needs to be an appeal that they would see God's heart themselves—whoever this person is you're talking to, who's living the independent life that they've been "cultured" into having. After all, they've been taught by satan as well as by their environment during their whole family-life, because everything about the American lifestyle is "look out for number one" and "do your own thing." How many slogans are there that basically say the same thing? So many have incorporated that culture into a Sunday-morning-go-to-meeting sort of church thing, where everybody goes off into their nuclear families to live life any way they please. It totally disavows any knowledge of what the Scriptures say about being devoted to one another, loving one another, and bearing one another's burdens and so fulfilling the law of Christ.

There are potent words attached to these ideas in the scriptures. "Confess your sins one to another and pray for one another, that you may be healed." "How can you love a God you haven't seen"—in your independent little prayer closet and worship time—"when you don't love your brother whom you have seen?" "Be not deceived!" See, the theme is all through the Scriptures.

Jesus Himself, the Word manifested in the flesh on planet earth, showed us the way. He was "in their midst as one who serves." "He came and tabernacled among them." He made His home here as "God with us." He was in the midst of His followers. He came to be with them that He might send them out. The way of life both manifested by the Living Word and taught in the written Word is, "Let's do it together."

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