What is a Relationship?
The relationship between God and man must be first, good and, second, personal. It is possible to have a relationship that is not personal, such as that of a citizen to a governor or President, and it is certainly true that some relationships, though personal, are not good. But any good, personal relationship is made up of the following three distinct, but equally essential aspects.
INITIAL DISCOVERY—There must come a time when, through some type of revelation, we discover in a person that of which we were previously unaware; when we notice qualities in their lives that attract us to them and set them apart from others. Lovers can often pinpoint the precise moment when they begin to notice their beloved. The realization may have come as a result of an act of unselfishness on the part of their beloved, or perhaps a banner performance under pressure. Often the realization will not come during or even immediately following the incident, but days, weeks or months afterward. In time the accumulated weight of repeated demonstrations of character slowly forces the fact out of the subconscious into conscious realization. This is the moment of initial discovery. Although in an altogether different context, this initial discovery is also present in the love relationship between parent and child. At first, the relationship is little more than self-love on the part of the infant. The new life is a part of the parents. Their life has been transferred and extended through that of the child. In a very real sense they love the child as themselves because that child is part of them, Later on, however, when the child manifests his own character and personality, there is room for additional discovery.
Scripture indicates that God relates to us in virtually all potential relationships:
Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends, if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves; for the slave does not know what his Master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. —John 15:13-15
O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the secret place of the steep pathway, let me see your form, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your form is lovely… My beloved is mine, and I am his; He pastures his flock among the lilies. —Song of Solomon 2:14,16 (NASB)
Let us rejoice and be glad and give glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready. And it was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. —Revelation 19:7-8 (NASB)
Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate, says the Lord. And do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you. And I will be a father to you and and you shall be sons and daughters to Me, says the Lord God Almighty. —2 Corinthians 6:17-18 (NASB)
MUTUAL COMMITMENT—Initial discovery can be a wonderful experience, but it will prove little more if it is not used as a stepping stone to commitment. Commitment must be on a reciprocal basis before a relationship exists. If initiative is important, response is vital. As long as one party is unwilling to commit to the other, no relationship can possibly exist. In a proper love relationship, it is impossible for one party to be the subject while the other remains strictly the object. A relationship is an interchange; both parties are alternately both a subject and an object. Each party has a role to play whether it be initiative or response. But if must be one or the other.
DURATION—No true relationship is static; it is a dynamic phenomenon. It moves, it goes somewhere. A relationship will either grow or deteriorate depending on the freewill decisions of the partners. Original commitments are not necessarily lasting ones. They must be maintained. Commitment must move along with the relationship, for if it does not, the relationship, like a car without fuel, will come to a halt. But although a motionless car remains a car, a motionless relationship is no relationship. Without commitment a relationship halts, and when a relationship halts, it ceases to exist.