As a father, it is more important to me that my kids talk to me than that they never disobey me. The most valuable thing to me for my children is the honesty, intimacy, and constancy of our relationships together. Their behavior matters, of course. But our relationships together matter more – or, first, I should say.
I want the very best for them, including, but not limited to:
- not making foolish decisions that will cause them to suffer from the natural consequences of those decisions;
- not living in bondage to sin habits;
- not hurting others, themselves, and me with disobedient, self-centered, and/or destructive behavior.
However, I want more and first that my children would know, embrace, and live out of my love for them than that they would never disobey me again. As the relationship between my children and me deepens, I would hope that they would grow to trust me and my instructions and advice more and more, thereby avoiding more sin and further consequences in their own lives.
But even when they do disobey, the maintenance of our relationship together is what matters to me most. As their dad, my relationship with my children can survive disobedience; what it cannot survive is brokenness, silence, distance, and inaccessibility.
The analogy here is far from perfect (as all analogies are), but this is the picture of relational holiness expressed between God and humanity throughout the Bible. God’s priority is relationship with mankind. A natural outcome of man having a regular, ever-deepening relationship with God will be a gradual shedding of man’s disobedient, self-centered, and destructive behaviors.
Eventually, sinless perfection is the destiny of all those whose love for God continually grows until all love of sin has been overpowered and vanquished. But it is not the death of sin that is God’s ultimate goal; it is the completeness of relationship that He wants most and purchased with Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. The eventual loss of sin is, then, a very welcome yet secondary byproduct of the first and most important aim: man’s intimacy with the Triune God.
Relational holiness is the subscript beneath all of Holy Scripture. From the Creation of man, to the Flood, to the establishment of God’s covenant relationship Abraham – all the way through Israel’s history, into the Incarnation, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus – and into the founding and expansion of the Church as the Bride of Christ – God’s chief desire for all mankind is relational holiness with Him.
God has high standards for our behavior – certainly so – but the fulfillment of those standards cannot come apart from intimacy with God. Our relationship with Him is the foundation from which all our actions should and eventually will flow. There are two stories within the Gospels that perfectly illustrate this movement from that foundation of relational holiness into a life of behavioral holiness: the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) and the Woman Caught in Adultery (John 8:1-11). Posts on these two stories will come later this week.
 John Wesley, The Works of John Wesley: Third Edition, Complete and Unabridged, Volume XI (Baker Books, 1998), 394.