Book Review: Relationships: A Mess Worth Making
Humans are built for relationship and community. Being made in the image of God, communitarian by virtue of the Trinity, it is wired into our very essence. Relationship and community is not just hard-wired, but is vital for the essential function of the church unifying to become a body that serves the Lord and has His will done here on Earth as it is in Heaven. The very concept of relationship is therefore inescapable, and invaluable.
However, we are fallen and consequently our attempts to relate with one another are fraught with sin. Most centrally, they are contaminated by self-centeredness. The idolatry-of-self means that when we interact with an-other, we cannot serve them wholly or perfectly. Indeed, as ‘no man can serve two masters’ it is typical that we choose to serve ourselves and therefore become resentful toward the other person, or even hateful.
Take these two incontrovertible facts, and you have the crux of the matter. Relationships may be worth making (indeed, they‘re essential) but they are inescapably messy.
Tim Lane and Paul Tripp have crafted a book that practically examines this through numerous accounts and vignettes which are valuably illustrative. Their solution to the very dilemma has the ring of truth – that only by looking vertically to the God from whom the drive for relationship flows can we address the difficulties we have in our horizontal relationships. It is exclusively a focus on Christ that creates the in-built need for relationship, and our innate desire for meaning.
There is a call in the book to serve Christ by serving the others with whom we relate with self-sacrifice and grace. The slavery to self-worship needs to be sacrificed so that we can serve others fully – and can more accurately emulate Christ who modelled this behaviour so magnificently. In Him alone is meaning, and that can be collectively sought – which is immediately unifying while also respecting of individuality.
As Lewis puts it, “When He talks of their losing their selves, He means only abandoning the clamour of self-will; once they have done that, He really gives them back all their personality, and boasts (I am afraid, sincerely) that when they are wholly His they will be more themselves than ever”.
This book is practical, Gospel-centered and exhortative. The authors admit their own failings and do not shy away from the fact that the world and the Relationships which go on within it are broken and ‘messy’ – yet they have a source of redemption in Christ, who demands of us relationship and service as an act of worship.
I thoroughly recommend the book. It makes for an excellent fifteen minutes a day reading.
by Craig Webber