During a Phoenix Seminary class in 1994, Dr. Norm Wakefield gave us a bookmark. I’ve had it in my Bible every day since. One side reads:
“The terms and conditions of a relationship determine the nature of the relationship.”
This is true. For example, think about the employers you’ve had in your life. Managers like to boast about having an “open door” policy. Yet it doesn’t take more than a week or two before you figure out there are two kinds of open door policy. The first one is a manager who invites your feedback, respects your viewpoint and values your contributions to the company.
The second one is a boss whose actions say, “My door is always open for you to come in and see my closed mind.”
The terms and conditions of a relationship determine the nature of the relationship. The manager who seeks out and values the input of the employees creates a relationship environment of team work and free flowing ideas. The boss who doesn’t creates a relationship environment of stunted communication and self-preservation.
The terms and conditions of the relationship determine the nature of the relationship.
When it comes to your relationship with God, whose terms and conditions are you operating by? Yours? Or God’s?
The distinction is crucial.
Some of us are operating by terms and conditions that view God as the divine policeman who waits for us to do something wrong so He can write us up. We live our lives walking on spiritual eggshells, afraid to risk or chance or dream for fear of messing up and incurring God’s wrath.
Some of us are operating from terms and conditions determined by our bad church experiences. People within the church have disappointed us. Or worse, wounded us. Perhaps pastors or leaders have abused our trust by taking liberties with their position. Living by these terms, we approach God with suspicion thinking it only a matter of time before He, too, will disappoint us.
Some of us are operating from terms and conditions imposed on us from our upbringing. Perhaps our parents’ view of God was extreme to one direction or the other. Years later, God to us is either a wholly unapproachable fire and brimstone Diety or our heavenly Fuzzy Buddy. Our terms and conditions have us viewing God as a single facet, ignoring the whole of who He is.
Some of us are operating from terms of guilt and shame. Our sins, we think, are impossibly large and unforgiveable. And should we manage to summon the courage to seek God’s forgiveness for these, we think it best not presume upon Him after that. For to do so would be asking one too many favors. So we live each day at a lonely distance from God, like a stray dog starving for attention, yet afraid to come close.
The terms and conditions of a relationship determine the nature of the relationship. When it comes to your relationship with God, what terms and conditions are you living by? Yours? Or God’s?
The flip side of Dr. Wakefield’s bookmark reads:
“The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.” – Psalm 145:8
These are God’s terms and conditions for His relationship with us. God is gracious. He extends to us blessings we don’t deserve. He is compassionate. Which is to say He knows what we’re made of because He made us. And because of that He cares for us as a loving Father cares for his children. How would your relationship with God change if you understood His heart toward you is always gracious and full of compassion?
God is slow to anger. He is not a heavenly hot-head with a hair trigger. How would your relationship with God change if you understood God is patient with you?
God abounds in loving kindness toward us. Loving kindness. In Hebrew, the word is “chesed”. It means a “loyal love”. A love that won’t quit on you. A love that is bulldog tenacious. A love that latches on to you and will not let you go. Ever.
According to God’s terms and conditions, His loving kindness to you is abounding. We don’t use that word often but it’s wonderful in context here. It means to “exist in large quantities.” So to paraphrase God’s terms and conditions, “God is kind beyond reason, understanding beyond measure, incredibly patient and loves you with overflowing large quantities of tenacious loyal love that will not let you go. Ever.”
When we allow God to define Himself and His relationship to us by His terms and conditions we experience the grace, acceptance, love and freedom He desires for us.
Whose terms and conditions would you rather live with? Yours? Or God’s? You get to choose. I’d choose for you but I can’t. It’s up to you.
So I’ll just encourage you to make your own bookmark. And think about getting it laminated.
That’s what I’m doing.
“The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.”
– Psalm 145:8
Todd A. Thompson – September 8, 2011