An excerpt from How People Change by Timothy Lane and Paul Tripp
What is going on in this strange encounter? Abram is struggling to believe God, so God helps him. He tells him to cut some animals in half. That night, a smoking firepot and a blazing torch pass between the animal halves. God was saying, “If I do not keep my promise to you, may what happens to these animals happen to me!” This is called a self-maledictory oath. God is saying, “If I don’t keep my end of the bargain, may I be ripped asunder! Over two thousand years later, God the Son hung on a cross, crying out, “My God! My God! Why have we been ripped asunder?” God allowed what should have happened to us to happen to Jesus. We were the ones who failed, yet the triune God was torn asunder so that we might be united to him and to one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. The perfect love, unity, and joy that existed between the Father, Son and Spirit were demolished, for a time, for our sake.
This is the ground on which we build our relationships. Every time you are tempted to shun another believer, remember that the Father, Son, and Spirit were torn asunder so that you might be united. When you sin or are sinned against, you are to move towards your sibling in Christ aware that Father, Son, and Spirit were torn asunder so that you might be reconciled! If we approached relationships in the body of Christ with that in view, it would transform our friendships. In Ephesians 4, Paul says that to the degree you do this, you will be “built up” (v.12), “become mature” (v.13), and “grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ” (v.15).
Everything each person of the Trinity is and does is always in union with the others. We were made in the image of this glorious God. Is it any wonder, then, that this deep longing for intimacy and relationships is woven into the fabric of out nature? Human beings long to connect because that is what they were made for. With the entrance of sin, this longing was corrupted and easily becomes idolatrous. Because of sin, we long to find all of our hope for relationships in other human beings. If we don’t get what we want out of those relationships, we often do hurtful, sinful things. Our approach to relationships is often self-centered.
But God is a redeeming God who does something utterly amazing to reconcile us to himself and others. The gospel opens the door to friendships where we can be conformed into the very image of Christ. When talking about the new community, the church, Paul clearly has this in view. In Ephesians 4:1-6, Paul turns from talking about our great salvation to chapters 1-3 to the new human community we have been brought into. He begins to instruct the church about the practical outworking of the gospel in everyday life and relationships.
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit though the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Eph. 4:1-6)