Paul had a somewhat tenuous relationship with the Galatians. He loved them, but when they abandoned the gospel for a hybrid of Christianity, he had to come down on them. Hard. And through the first three chapters, Paul is angry, irritated, and direct. But in chapter 4, his tone starts to ease up a bit. That’s when you get this verse:
My children, again I am in the pains of childbirth for you until Christ is formed in you.
In that statement, we find what should be the end to all our relationships. Our highest goal in any relationship must be the formation of Christ in another to the glory of God. That’s great in theory, but when you start thinking about all the practical implications, it’s staggering. It’s overwhelming to think that the goal in relationship isn’t just companionship, love, shared benefit, or pleasure. Those things are part of it, but the ultimate goal is the formation of Christ in another—to see that person grow into a true follower of Jesus.
Your wife. Your husband. Your kids. Your dad. Your coworker. Your boss.
All to have Christ formed in them. Here are some of my practical reflections along those lines:
- It means I have to tell the truth. It’s a lot easier to not tell the truth, especially when someone is wandering down an ill-advised or flat out wrong path. But I have to tell them the truth about themselves, the world, and God because my goal is to have Christ formed in them.
- It means I don’t leave. Relationships are life-long affairs. I can’t just drift in and out of people’s lives, here one day and gone the next. I have to be there for the long haul because Christ isn’t formed in someone overnight.
- It means I don’t have to tell everyone everything about Jesus at our first meeting. Because Christ-formation is long-term, there are moments when I need to just sit and listen rather than speak.
- It means I must preach the gospel to myself every day in order to prepare to be in relationship. If I don’t, I’ll try to use people to meet my own ends and make myself feel better rather than loving them as Jesus has loved me. I’ll be insecure and need their affirmation rather than be able to encourage them in a non-self-seeking kind of way.
- It means that when I’m committed to the formation of Christ in another, I’m imitating God’s relationship with me. His goal is to have Christ formed in me. I am to love as He loves.