It may be that the reason Christians have so often focused on doctrine and morality,  instead of paying attention to the New Testament’s prevailing concern about how we relate to one another, is that theology and morality are easier to manage than the challenge of fulfilling the New Testament mandate for Christian relationships.

The New Testament presents a deeply challenging picture of how we should be in relationship with one another. Here are a few texts that suggest how God designed us to be together in relationship.

Ponder these texts. Hold them up as a mirror to your relationships.

What behaviours and attitudes will we avoid in our relationships?

God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honour to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body (I Corinthians 12:24,25)

Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another. (Galatians 5:26)

My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favouritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? (James 2:1)

Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices (Colossians 3:9)

Let us therefore no longer pass judgement on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling-block or hindrance in the way of another. (Romans 14:13)

Do not speak evil against one another, brothers and sisters. (James 4:11)

Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. (James 5:9)

If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. (Galatians 5:15)

******************

So if Christian relationships will avoid dissension, conceit, competition, envy, favouristism, lying, judgement, speaking evil, grumbling, and violence,

What actions will characterize Christian relationships?

So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. (John 13:14,15)

For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. (Galatians 5:13)

Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)

Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (Romans 15:7)

Be hospitable to one another without complaining. (I Peter 4:9)

Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual edification. (Romans 14:19)

Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing. ( I Thessalonians 5:11)

Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. (James 5:16)

Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:21)

Greet one another with a holy kiss. (Romans 16:16)

******************

It is difficult to even imagine what a community characterized by such attitudes and actions might look like. So the essential question about Christian relationships is:

How do we do these things?

I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16-19)

If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. (Galatians 5:25)

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death (Philippians 3:10)

*****************

We will only begin to live in relationship with one another according to the pattern laid down in the New Testament when we are ready to abandon ourselves to the power of love. Until we come to the place of deep and full surrender, it will be much easier to obsess about theology and fret over morality. But theology and morality will not build the community of love Jesus came to inaugurate.