The Relational Nature of the Gospel
2 Cor. 12:14 - "Here for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be a burden, for I seek not what is yours but you. For children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children."
As Paul began wrapping up 2 Corinthians, he tried to help the Grecian church remember that he had sincerely and sacrificially served them, despite what some were saying. In the midst of that reminder, he made a powerful statement, "For I seek not what is yours, but you." He explained that one of his primary goals in preaching was to win people, not possessions! He wanted to be reconciled with everyone who would choose to be united in Christ.
Paul's focus is consistent with Jesus' aim. Throughout the NT it is repeatedly emphasized that seeking others with the gospel is inherently relational. Consider the following passages.
Sharing the Gospel Begins with a Personal Relationship with God!
Matt. 22:37-39 - "And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
How many times have you heard it said that you can never love others unless you first learn to love God? That's true! Until we love God first and most, we will not be able to appropriately love others like we should. Relating to others in a godly way hinges on whether we are right in our relationship with God.
Sharing the Gospel Requires Mutual Vulnerability
2 Cor. 6:11-13 - "We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also."
Paul warned the Corinthians that their misdirected affections were keeping them from being influenced by Paul's sincere, sacrificial vulnerability. Here was Paul, speaking truth, exerting himself and sacrificing himself for their benefit, while the Corinthians kept themselves closed off and aloof. The problem in this instance was not with his message. The problem was not his method or manner of teaching. The problem was the Corinthians' unwillingness to honestly be open. So, Paul pleaded with them to make themselves equally vulnerable in order to benefit from the work he was doing on their behalf.
Another way of saying this is that in order for relationships to be successful, they require a willing transparency on the part of both people. Relationships require mutual honesty and vulnerability. Paul told the Corinthians he was ready and willing, and he was inviting them to do the same. However, if they closed themselves off it would drastically limit what he was able to do.
If we are going to do the most good as we seek others and share the gospel of Jesus, we have to do be as open as Paul was. We have to be genuine. We have to be honest and make ourselves vulnerable. We have to be prepared that some people will reject the invitation, while also being ready because some will accept!
Sharing the Gospel Results in the Growth of His Family
Matt. 12:49-50 - "And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, 'Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.'"
When Jesus was told that his earthly family was looking for them, He used it as an opportunity to teach those around him about the nature of His kingdom. His kingdom was not a corporation, an enterprise, or any other secular organization. One of the most repeated images in the NT that Jesus used to describe His kingdom was that of a family.
Paul used this imagery when he told Timothy how to interact with different people within a local church. "Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity" (1 Tim. 5:1-2).
He also used a man's household, his family, as a proving ground for whether he was prepared to care for the saints within a local church family (1 Tim. 3:1-7).
This imagery is meant to help us understand what God intends for our relationships with each other as we come to call on Him as our Father (1 Pet. 1:17). We interact as He meant for families to interact, especially on a congregational level. The imagery communicates closeness (Matt. 12:49-50), care (1 Tim. 3:5) and responsibility toward each other both spiritually and physically (Matt. 18:15-20; 1 Tim. 5:3-16).
All of this makes sense. At its core, the message of the gospel is about relationships. First and foremost the gospel is about addressing the broken relationship every person has with God. Our sin has severed that relationship, and only in Christ is it restored. However, our sin has also negatively impacted our relationship with others. But as we strive to love God above all else, the truths and principles we learn, along with the grace and forgiveness we receive will spill over and lead us to seek restoration in our earthly relationships. The gospel of Jesus is inherently relational.
As you share the gospel while seeking others, ask yourself why are you doing it. Is it for attention? Is it to receive some kind of earthly comfort? Is it simply busy work? Or is it because you long to be reconciled and in relationship with God and all those who will come to be redeemed in Christ?
To do this well you need to make your relationship with God your utmost priority, be willing to make yourself vulnerable and open with others, which will help promote the growth of the family of God. Praise God that He sent His Son to do all of these things as He sought us! May we follow His example and do the same.