Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Oil of Relationships

Kevin was concerned about his car. Recently he'd noticed, that after starting his car, and putting it in gear, the car would not move. Mildly alarmed, he would depress the accelerator to the floor, and still nothing would happen. "What is wrong with my car?" he thought. "I can hear the motor roaring as the engine revs, I see the tachometer needle rise, and still, this car won't move -- I've got to get to work -- what am I going to do?"

After a few minutes of this, the car would suddenly jerk and abruptly move forward. Because the car would eventually move into gear and take off, Kevin was lulled into doing nothing about his situation. Day after day he drove his car like this, until one day there was a grinding sound from under the hood. "What in the world is that," he thought. "Man it sounds like metal grinding against metal -- I'm going to have to take this car in, and I don't have the money or the time." "Life sucks." Now he was really worried, so he hurriedly took his car to a mechanic. Puzzled and concerned about the cost, Kevin met with the mechanic, and briefly described the sounds and jerking motions his car made. Just by the description Kevin gave, the mechanic immediately knew what the problem was. Nonplused, the mechanic pulled the car into the garage, opened the hood and pulled out the transmission dipstick to measure the fluid. With the noise that the car was making, the mechanic was not surprised to find that the transmission was bone dry with no fluid. Incredulously he asked Kevin, “When was the last time you put oil in your car, and checked the transmission fluid?” Kevin not being mechanically inclined, sheepishly responded, “I really don’t know anything about that -- uh, I just got the car.” In disbelief, the mechanic explained to Kevin, “your transmission is what transmits the power of your engine to the wheels, and inside the engine are metal parts called gears." "These gears mesh well with each other when the oil flows between them." "Without the oil between those parts, your gears grind, become noisy and overheat." "Eventually this will cause your transmission to break down -- man are you lucky you came here when you did, but it's gonna to cost you $150.00 to fix your problem though." Humbled and broke, but wiser, Kevin agreed to have the mechanic fix his car.

After hearing this story, it dawned on me that human relationships are like the gears in a car transmission. We are constantly meshing against (or rubbing up against) one another. This meshing causes friction between us, which if left un-lubricated, grinds and causes relationships to breakdown. Just as Kevin's transmission required oil for the smooth flowing between parts, we too need relationship oil to flow in and between us. Thankfully God has provided the perfect oil -- the oil of the Holy Spirit. So how does the Holy Spirit prevent the friction from occurring between our neighbors and us? It is chiefly through the gifts He brings when He indwells us (Gal. 5:22, 23), such as agape, peace, joy, long-suffering, patience, meekness, goodness and gentleness. Chief among these gifts is Agape -- God’s unconditional love -- for the Holy Spirit is not only the source of Agape - He Himself (& the Godhead) is Agape. Consequently, whatever may have caused the fracture in the relationship between others and us, whatever may be the source of the alienation, and the inflow of agape is the solution. It alone eliminates the friction. An enlightened man of God had this to say regarding the transmission illustration, “Now we ‘mesh’ one with another like well-oiled gears in a transmission, with this “oil” of the love of Christ making it possible for us now to “transmit” the blessings of heaven to the needy people of the world (your transmission is what transmits the power of your engine to the wheels!). Think of our vehicle as the world’s only “ambulance.” That’s what Christ has called His church to be; Paul says that “the gospel of Christ” is the powerful “engine” of the vehicle (the church), “the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16).

What is it about agape that causes human friction to cease? Let’s go to I Corinthians 13: 4-8, for the answer.

I Corinthians 13: 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
I Corinthians 13: 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
I Corinthians 13: 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
I Corinthians 13: 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
I Corinthians 13: 8 Love never fails…

In this text, we see a description not only of the Character of God, but also of human beings when they are filled with His love. While it is not the nature of human beings to agape God or others, our minds, when under the well-oiled control of the Holy Spirit, function as His does. This means that His love -- the love of Christ as demonstrated in I Corinthians chapter 13, and as demonstrated on the cross, is embodied in us, and makes it possible for us to submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21). How do we submit to each other? Well, the process is twofold.
In John 13:4-12, we have an example of both processes functioning side by side. Let's take a look at verse 4 and 5, where Jesus arises from the supper table, girds Himself and washes the disciples' feet. In verse 6, He comes to Peter, and Peter doesn't want Christ to wash his feet. Note him saying in verse 8, "... Thou shalt never wash my feet." How did Jesus respond? By saying, "If I wash thee not, thou hast no part of Me." And in verse 10, and 11 we have the first process of submission: "Simon Peter saith unto Him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head." To which Jesus replies, "... He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean...” So what is the first process? It is allowing the Lord to wash you and me from the sludge of turning to our own way to preserve self.

For the second process of submission, let's look at verses 12 through 16.

John 13:12 …He said unto them, “Know ye what I have done to you?
John 13:13 Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.
John 13:14
If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet.
John 13:15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.
John 13:16 Verily, verily, I say unto you, the servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.”

In this set of verses, we see Christ humbling and submitting Himself unto His disciples through washing their dusty, dry feet. This as we well know, was the task of a servant and as such, none of the disciples intended to carry it out, for in their minds, it was beneath them. Instead, they had been quarreling about who would get those coveted cabinet positions in Christ's kingdom. In their self-serving frame of mind, they were unprepared to enter into His sufferings, as well as into His kingdom, for their hearts were hardened to one another. Are we guilty of striving for the chief seats in the kingdom (or board room)? Are we guilty of attributing to others the motives upon which we operate? Oh, where is the oil of the Holy Spirit in your heart? If we are guilty in any way of seeking to preserve self at the expense of another, then our transmission is dry -- without oil.

Paul's admonition in Philippians 2:3 is that we, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” What we think and how we feel impacts how we treat others. If our minds are uplifted in gratitude to Christ, the oil of the Holy Spirit will ease the friction we experience relationally. Friends, let's allow the Holy Spirit to prepare a table before us in the presence of our friends and enemies, and anoint our heads with the oil of gladness. We'll rejoice with the Savior that we did.

Raul Diaz & Maria Greaves-Barnes
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