The Inertia of Relationships

Posted on May 9, 2012 by

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“Objects at rest tend to stay at rest unless acted upon by an outside force.”  

–Newton’s First Law of Motion

Objects at Rest . . .  Newton’s Law governs motion, but it also governs human relationships.  While I was talking with a high school student one day, he described one of his friendships to me:  “Kevin’s a friend of mine, but he’s more of a ‘school friend.’  We don’t hang out on the weekends or anything.”  The relationship between these two students was “at rest:” they saw each other at school, said hello, maybe spent some time together in class, but it was not a dynamic friendship that made much of a difference in either of their lives.

Tend to stay at rest . . .  The law of inertia creates invisible and unspoken boundaries in relationships.  People can easily fall into patterns of relating to others out of habit or social convention.  We don’t include an acquaintance in a social gathering because they have never spent time with the rest of the group.  We hesitate to ask significant questions in some relationships because we have never related on that level before.  We may even hesitate to help someone who has a need because we we don’t know them very well.

Unless acted upon by an outside force . . . As followers of Christ,  we are called to change the inertia of relationships.   The friendships that have meant the most to me, the ones that have been life changing, have been the ones where someone has been willing to cross the unspoken and invisible boundaries. Sometimes it has meant ignoring differences in age or background.  Sometimes it has involved initiating significant conversations.   Each time, the person changing the inertia has been motivated by the One who broke all patterns, expectations, boundaries and conventions by dying an unjust death so that we could be made just.

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.  And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for him who died for them and was raised again.

–2 Corinthians 5:14-15 (NIV)

My high school friend changed the inertia of his relationship with Kevin that very day by inviting him to join us to hang out.  What relationship is Christ’s love compelling you to transform?

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