“All In” Relationships – Increasing Our Faith
Rev. Connie Lee
On August 22-24, we will have an opportunity to come together as the Body of Christ participating in our First Annual Presbyterian Intercultural Network (PIN) Regional Conference. Our PIN Conference will be held on the beautiful Columbia Theological Seminary campus. Our conference theme this year is: “All In: Incarnation in an Intercultural World”. We are excited about participating in this powerful experience of developing “All In Relationships” – relationships in which a person puts all of their available resources into developing and maintaining positive, healthy interactions with one another and others. “All In” relationships have certain characteristics that show up regardless of who they are with.
When I recently attended a Session Meeting at First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta, our new ruling elders shared their Statements of Faith. Each elder stood before us and shared with us one by one, their stories about people with whom they had an “all-in relationship,” people responsible for them coming to faith or maintaining their faith. As we listened, the power of the Holy Spirit transported us into a suspended kairos time and space that seemed to halt the ticking clock. The experience and its clear reminder of the way in which “all in” relationships can increase our faith was reminiscent of the Acts 2 Pentecost passage where people from every nation were amazed as the Holy Spirit united them on one accord.
Having an all-in relationship with someone is important for those of us who are carrying the good news message out into the world. One of the characteristics of this type of relationship is commitment to that relationship. During the recent Memorial Day weekend we remembered persons who have developed an “all in” relationship by serving in the US Military. People have left family and friends for the sake of serving. Many have paid the ultimate sacrifice with their lives; others return with various scars, some visible and some not so visible to the naked eye. Members of our armed forces are committed to giving of themselves physically, emotionally, and sacrificially in order to keep each of us in this great nation safe and free from outside and inside threats. “All In” relationships require commitment.
“All-In relationships” require courage. In this day and time, we are aware of the need to have safe boundaries that honors the humanity of each of us. However, In the face of social, political and economic realities, it is often difficult choosing to have relationships that go against the grain of established expectations. The New York Times best seller book Just Mercy—A Story of Justice and Redemption was written by Bryan Stevenson. Stevenson is known as one of the most brilliant attorneys in the 21st Century, yet he chooses to defend the poor and wrongly accused who end up on death row, or children serving adult sentences. Stevenson provides an excellent example of an “all-in relationship” with defending those who otherwise would not receive justice in our current judicial system. Stevenson reminds us with this quote: “Each of us is more than the worst thing we have ever done.” For the same reason, that First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta partners with Hillside Presbyterian Church and the Georgia Justice Project to provide monthly transportation for family members of their clients, building relationships with the family members as they drive. These monthly visits sometimes make all the difference for the prisoner and their family members to remain connected during their time of incarceration. Because of their partnership with the Georgia Justice Project, the churches are able to maintain safe boundaries while still offering the courage of accompanying these families on their journey.
“All In” relationships require genuine care and concern for those involved. The Roman Centurion in Luke 7 has no obligation to see that his slave is treated with kindness or any type of sympathy. Yet, he clearly has an “all-in relationship” with him. So, when he hears about the Jewish rabbi named Jesus who is a healer, he reaches out to the Jewish community. This Centurion has already reached across social and cultural barriers to share his generosity within the Jewish community. When the Jewish elders ask Jesus to come and heal the Centurion’s slave, they say: “He is worthy of having you do this for him, for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us.” Though he has the power and privilege of ignoring the needs of the Jews, and definitely of any slave, he chooses to develop an “all-in relationship” with them. He has made a decision to care and be concerned about those in his midst who do not have the same freedom or resources he has.
As he sends for Jesus the Centurion realizes that, according to Jewish laws, if Jesus comes to his house, he will no longer be able to heal others because he will be considered unclean. So, he sends a second delegation to Jesus. This time it is his friends and they say to Jesus, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. For I am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; I say to one ‘Go’ and he goes, and to another ‘Come’ and he comes and to my slave ‘do this, and the slave does it’”
The Centurion is a man who is accustomed to having great power at his hands so that whenever he speaks, others simply respond, but he models for us another characteristic of an “all-in relationship”. He has compassion. He understands the need to provide additional accommodations for those in society who are weaker for any reason, whether it is their health, whether it is their cultural expectations, or whether it is their economic status. Having compassion for those who are weaker among us can enable us to develop an “all-in” relationship that increases faith.
We are each called to develop all-in relationships that increase faith in God, the Father Son and Holy Spirit. We invite you to join us in experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit who transforms us into developing “all in” relationships based on commitment, genuine care and concern, courage and compassion. Come expecting to experience a Kairos moment in time!