RElationships vs MElationships

We spend much of our lives trying to become independent or trying to remove ourselves from under the authority of others. As teenagers, we long to become adults and move out of our parents’ houses. Then, we strive to work hard enough to no longer work. If we ever experience the blessing of marriage, it does not take long for many to wonder why it feels so binding and doesn’t work out for them. The same is true with religion. We become religious because we initially see some sort of freedom therein. Then, as time progresses, it doesn’t seem to work for us and we desire liberty. In some ways, absolute independence and liberty have become the highest prize life has to offer. That’s the American dream. People work hard and retire, and they are still unsatisfied. Have you ever wondered how people can have such fulfilling and happy marriages? Happy lives? Happy relationships all around? Have you ever wondered how you might be liberated from the dissatisfaction of the majority human existence, seeking after comfort and prosperity? Today, I am going to share the secret of happy living. This secret isn’t a secret at all. We’ve known about it since the dawn of humanity.

Nabal was a successful man with a great net-worth but an unhappy and unfulfilled drunk. He was a harsh businessman who cheated David. Even though David spared him, God required his life. Nothing he earned amounted to anything. He was gone. God saw that justice was accomplished. In Nabal, we saw a man who had everything but nothing. We’ve seen the vanity of self-centered living. Now we will see what it means to live a worthwhile life.

1 Samuel 25:39-44

When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, “Blessed be the Lord, who has pleaded the cause of my reproach from the hand of Nabal and has kept back His servant from evil. The Lord has also returned the evildoing of Nabal on his own head.” Then David sent a proposal to Abigail, to take her as his wife.

When the servants of David came to Abigail at Carmel, they spoke to her, saying, “David has sent us to you to take you as his wife.”

She arose and bowed with her face to the ground and said, “Behold, your maidservant is a maid to wash the feet of my lord’s servants.”

Then Abigail quickly arose, and rode on a donkey, with her five maidens who attended her; and she followed the messengers of David and became his wife. David had also taken Ahinoam of Jezreel, and they both became his wives.

Now Saul had given Michal his daughter, David’s wife, to Palti the son of Laish, who was from Gallim.

God’s justice (v. 39)

When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, “Blessed be the Lord, who has pleaded the cause of my reproach from the hand of Nabal and has kept back His servant from evil. The Lord has also returned the evildoing of Nabal on his own head.” Then David sent a proposal to Abigail, to take her as his wife.

God’s justice works in two directions. First, because He makes His people just, He guards them from many sins—more and more as He sanctifies His people. Second, because He must reveal His wrath against injustice, no one who practices injustice will prevail. The only reason anyone who is in Christ can be forgiven is because God revealed His wrath against His Messiah on behalf of His chosen people. David praises God for God’s just nature. God kept David from sin and revealed His wrath against Nabal.

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After Nabal died, probably as a result of a heart-attack (Yes, meaning God worked together Nabal’s death through natural means), David sent a proposal to Nabal’s widow—Abigail, who interceded for her people and saved them. We do not know if this proposal was Lawful or not because we neither know whether or not Abigail needed a kinsman redeemer nor whether or not those qualified kinsman redeemer(s) sought her hand in marriage first (Cf. Deuteronomy 25:5-10). If Abigail were to accept David’s proposal, David would doubtless acquire her land and Nabal’s business as a coheir with Abigail. Despite some claims to the contrary, women could own land on their own without a husband (Cf. Numbers 27:6-11; Ruth 4:3; 2 Kings 4:1-7; 8:1-6). If Abigail were to accept David’s proposal, it would be entirely gratuitous. Abigail is a strong, independent woman who lawfully inherited Nabal’s estate, his property and business. David has no legal authority yet. He is not king. Abigail is under no obligation. If she was merely interested in security, she could offer to simply pay David like her late husband should have done. We make no mistake, here. When Abigail sends her answer, she does so because it is what she wants.

Abigail’s example (v. 40-42)

When the servants of David came to Abigail at Carmel, they spoke to her, saying, “David has sent us to you to take you as his wife.”
She arose and bowed with her face to the ground and said, “Behold, your maidservant is a maid to wash the feet of my lord’s servants.”
Then Abigail quickly arose, and rode on a donkey, with her five maidens who attended her; and she followed the messengers of David and became his wife.

Abigail accepts David’s proposal and goes to marry him. Look at her reply. She doesn’t see marriage as something to gain from. She sees marriage as an opportunity to serve her husband and his servants. She refers to herself as a maidservant despite her great wealth and position. She volunteers to be a feet-washer. This is a radical idea in the face of a worldly view of marriage, let alone every type of relationship. From a very young age, the world teaches us to build all types of relationships based on how we might profit from those relationships:

  • We choose friends who are like us and make us feel good.
  • We date, which is still a relatively new concept, based on our attractions in order to see if we are compatible—usually meaning mutually beneficial or providing some level of pleasure.
  • We marry based on what another person has to offer or whether or not we believe that person can make us happy.
  • We even come to Christ or into a local church based on what we believe we can gain.

As soon as a relationship doesn’t work out for our own happiness or pleasure, we find something new and start the same process again. We begin to replace human relationships with work, pornography, or entertainment because those things meet the expectations our relationships did not. We decide that what will make us happy or bring us pleasure is a different kind of relationship, so we redefine our gender identities and sexuality only to find that those types of relationships are just as dissatisfying. These are symptoms of a deeper problem. Instead of living in relationships with others, we live in melationships based on our own preferences, expectations,  definitions, and pleasures. In a melationship, I seek what I can gain from someone else. There is a constant pull, a persistent tension. Eventually, we are no longer pleased, drift apart, and fall out of love. We say things like, “You are just not the same person I married… I don’t deserve this…” In reality, we have simply been so concerned about our own pleasure from the beginning that the melationship was doomed from the outset. That’s not only the danger of modern dating but the danger in basing any relationship on our own preferences, expectations, definitions, and pleasures. That’s why worldly relationships, even worldly relationship in the ‘church’ don’t work out. We see so many bad relationships among those who refer to themselves as Christians because they build relationships, I mean melationships, like the world does.

Let’s observe the biblical foundations of human relationship to see where we have gone wrong.

The creation

The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.” For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed (Genesis 2:20-25).

The first relationship we see described in Scripture is the relationship between humanity and God. People were created to serve God by stewarding His earth (Cf. Genesis 1:26). The second relationship described in Scripture is the marriage relationship, which was instituted by God. This marriage relationship sets the precedent for every relationship we have with other people. 1) the woman was created as the man’s helpmate. Helpmate is a symbiotic term, meaning that the man was also the woman’s helpmate; they were designed to compliment each other by helping each other in stewarding God’s earth. 2) God designed two complimentary genders and two complimentary sexes so one could help the other in a meaningful way. That is why we believe biblical marriage to be between a natural man and natural woman. Without both complimentary pieces, we do not have the God-instituted means to serve our partners for the purpose of stewarding God’s earth. Instead, we are left only to seek our own happiness by the methods and identities we have contrived for ourselves—which is not only idolatrous but unsatisfying. Since people are God’s image, this relationship reveals God’s servant-nature and the fact that He designed humanity as complimentary to Himself—while God does not need help, we were created to worship Him in service. Applied to every relationship, we recognize that we were created and given different spiritual gifts for our perpetual service and submission to all others (Cf. 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 5-6). 3) God instituted monogamy, or marriage between one man and one woman, as the rule. Why? Marriage was designed to be a commitment to servanthood. A wife is designed to serve her husband in service to God and a man is designed to serve his wife in service to God. As soon as multiple wives (or husbands) are introduced, one of them is forced to divide his or her attention and a man is no longer giving all of himself to his bride. His search for a melationship divides his devotion and sacrifice for his bride between her and his other wives, sex-slaves (concubines), and/or pornography.

The incarnation

Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. So He came to Simon Peter. He said to Him, “Lord, do You wash my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.” Peter said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me… If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:5-8, 14).

Jesus will wash His disciples’ feet and instruct them to wash one another’s’ feet. The act entails forgiveness and unconditional service to one another. Jesus came to serve rather than be served (Cf. Matthew 20:28). Jesus is the full revelation of God. God does not need to be served as if we have anything to offer Him. He serves. Because we were created in His image, we live in relationship by becoming voluntary and willful servants to one another as we steward God’s earth together. God accepts our service to Him even though He does not need it. Why? He created us to be His image; He provides all things, and our service, our acts of worship, present a picture of His own sovereignty and providence. If we believe God is providential, then we accept that He serves us first; He sustains us, cleanses us from sin (washes our feet), and provides us with every good thing for His own glory. We don’t have to be ashamed when our brothers and sisters in Christ want to serve us. God has commanded it. It is a picture of Him, a testimony about His providence. When we reject the service of our brothers and sisters in Christ, we do not honor the one who instructed us to wash one another’s feet because He did so first. The fruit of a biblical relationship is different from the fruit of a worldly melationship:

Fruit of a biblical relationship:Fruit of a worldly melationship:
A multitude of sins are covered (Cf. 1 Peter 4:8)We become accusatory and divisive.
There is mutual, unconditional service.The pursuit of personal fulfillment produces tension and drives people apart.
Produces unity under a single purpose.Produces division, accusations and complaints because people feel their personal preferences or needs are not being met.
Each person is more satisfied because we are living for the purpose which we were designed—service and sacrifice.We are dissatisfied because we were not designed to seek after our own preferences, expectations,  definitions, and pleasures.
We are no longer ashamed to be served but take joy in the fact that God is being represented and obeyed.We are afraid we will be perceived as incompetent, too dependent, or needy if someone helps us.
We begin to seek others’ sincere good.We are people pleasers or seek a following for ourselves.
We begin to seek God’s glory.We seek our own glory.

Relationships are built on servanthood and sacrifice. Melationships are built on benefits. Abigail is a woman interested in a relationship. Nabal was a man interested in melationships. I submit to you that if we were truly interested in relationships, servanthood and sacrifice, we would be a happier people; I can submit that based on my marital experience as well as on the Bible. If we were interested in relationships rather than melationships, I am convinced there would be no divorces, genocides, wars, abortions, sex slaves, broken homes, marital problems, falling outs, disunity, or lack of lovingkindness. People would reason together with gentleness and respect, break bread together, and never offer unfounded accusations against others. The world would be perfect, but it is not. Even Adam, the first man, sought to gain from his wife and failed to redeem her from the first sin. Eve, the first woman, failed to be a helpmate for her husband when she lured him into sin. Scripture is clear about the state of affairs following the Fall of humanity. Eve, and every other woman, would naturally desire to sweep her husband’s manhood out from under him rather than serve him (Cf. Genesis 3:16). That is the condition of the world with regard to both genders and sexes, and we see it from the household to the workplace to the church. Women are not welcome to be women, and men are not welcome to be men; We do not have complimentary relationships for our good and God’s glory if they are of this world. We have melationships.

We are unrighteous by nature because only God is righteous. We are God’s image, but we are not gods. God’s pure self-righteousness is represented in us. Thus, by creation we are self-righteous. Though it reveals something holy about God’s nature, our self-righteousness works out such that we see our own goodness apart from God—we seek to be like God by our works, which is impossible. That’s called sin. Because we are self-seeking by nature, we naturally seek melationships. It takes an act of God, an act of redemption and regeneration, to bring us to life in His righteousness, die to ourselves, and become willing and self-sacrificial servants (Cf. Matthew 16:25; Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 2:1-5). Biblical relationships are the fruit of a regenerate heart. Unless Christ first loves us, we are incapable of truly and unconditionally loving others like self-sacrificial servants (Cf. 1 John 4:19). We want happy lives and happy relationships? I cannot tell you to just do better and, by your willpower, be a better person. That’s not the Gospel. No. Seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness. Know Him. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. The natural fruit of that relationship, one in which Jesus is washing your feet, is servanthood and sacrifice. I promise it is more fulfilling than anything the world has to offer.

Polygamy and property in the Bible (v. 43-44)

David had also taken Ahinoam of Jezreel, and they both became his wives. Now Saul had given Michal his daughter, David’s wife, to Palti the son of Laish, who was from Gallim.

Many people will take verses like these and misappropriate them to defend polygamy or their mistreatment of women; Or, they will condemn the Jewish and Christians worldviews because the Bible describes polygamy and mistreatment of women. These two verses are descriptive, not prescriptive, and do not provide us with doctrine. From our earlier explanation, we see that David is sinning in his polygamy, and Saul is sinning by controlling his adult, married daughter as he is. The story simply focuses on something a little more important than human sin. 1 Samuel is not about pointing out human sin. It is about God’s providence as God establishes His own throne within His creation through His chosen nation and His chosen kingly line—that of David.

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