Thursday, September 23, 2010

In Relationship, At Risk

Think of a time you thought something would happen and it ended up not happening.

Given how many expectations we have, it's surprising how relatively few of them are not realised. When I go to sleep at night, I fully expect to wake up. So far I have not been disappointed. When I sit on a chair, I expect it to hold me without breaking. When someone says something to me, I expect to hear them.

Such expectations are almost always met. We don't even think about them as possibilities. As far as we are concerned, they are certainties. But of course they are not certainties, and every so often we get a stark reminder of that. A chair breaks. An illness affects our hearing. A friend dies.

It is relationships that cause the biggest and most frequent gaps between expectations and reality. Choosing to love another person puts you deeply at risk, because now your expectations are resting not on favourable probabilities but on complex persons who can make all sorts of choices. Of course as a relationship grows, so to do the percentage probabilities of certain outcomes, while the choices actually decrease. This is epitomised in the act of proposing, where the man eventually leaves the woman with only two choices - yes or no. Before he gives her that choice, of course, days/weeks/months/years have been spent putting the probability of a "Yes" in his favour. As risky as this yes or no question is, as risky as a positive answer to this question is, he would not ask it if he didn't expect a Yes.

But what if she says Yes, what if the marriage goes ahead, and then she proves to be unfaithful? Or what if the husband is the unfaithful one? An expectation is not met, a promise is broken, and a heart is shattered.

To be in relationship is to be at risk, in small ways and in the largest of ways.

Consider these words spoken by a person in the Bible who knows this full well:

And I thought, 'After she has done all this she will return to me', but she did not return...

The husband thought his wife to return to him, but she did not return. An expectation is not met, an imagined future is not realised. The husband loved, he put himself at risk, but all he got in return was disappointment and heart break.

This person in the Bible is YHWH.

If God's love for Israel put him so at risk, how much more at risk is he in the giving of his son for the sake of the world?

If God's greatest act of love is to be one with relational integrity, perhaps the real question isn't so much what happens to people who do not accept it, but what happens to God himself if his love is rejected?

Finally, if God's relentless love for faithless Israel is such that Paul can say "all Israel will be saved", what about the future of a faithless world?

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