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Monday, January 23, 2006

What Really Matters

It’s all about relationships.

I watched President Bush speak to an audience of nine thousand people at Kansas State University on Monday morning. He is traveling around the country addressing the question of wire-tapping and the War on Terrorism.

During the question and answer session, one student asked him how he is able to handle being constantly criticized in his role as the president. He gave a short but powerful response.

His answer: “Faith, Family, and Friends.” He then followed that up by giving examples of how that plays out in his life.

The question of his friendships is a matter that some have criticized. They say he’s too loyal to his friends. Too loyal? What does that mean exactly? How can you be too loyal? Friendship, if it’s worth anything at all, is all about loyalty.

He obviously values his relationship with his wife, Laura. He said to the crowd, as he has numerous times during his presidency, “I married well.” He followed that up by saying, “My daughters still like me.” That brought a chuckle from the audience.

As for faith, the president has never been shy about his personal relationship with God. Some have accused him of forcing his religious beliefs on all Americans. I disagree. What he is doing is living his faith. That is to say, his faith is not one part of his life that only emerges on Sunday for church. His relationship with God is very deep and very personal which affects every part of his life. It cannot be separated as some have suggested. Personally, I wouldn’t think much of a person’s faith if it didn’t permeate their entire life.

Our lives consist of relationships. In the final analysis, it doesn’t matter how many toys you have, or how far you went up the ladder of success. And it really doesn’t matter what the rest of those in your world think of you. It’s what friends and family think of you, and most importantly, what God thinks of you, that matters. It has to do with the quality of those relationships.

The Bible has quite a bit to say about friends. In the book of Proverbs we read, “A friend loves at all times,” and “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Or how about this one, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted.” And finally this verse, “Do not forsake your friend and the friend of your father.” Sounds an awful lot like loyalty to me. But to cap off the friend part, consider Jesus’ words when he says, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Those are the kind of friends I want to have, and that’s the kind of friend I want to be.

There is far too much written in the Bible about the role and importance of families to do it justice in this article. But in Genesis, God establishes the basic principle for all families, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” This is a relationship of commitment. As God concluded his creative adventure with planet earth, topping it off by making man and woman, he declared it to be, “Very good.”

Now as for a relationship with God, this is man’s deepest longing. The Bible focuses totally on God’s desire to restore the broken relationship with man that sin had caused. In fact, he took all the steps necessary to mend the rift. “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” This, then, is the reason many in the Christian faith are committed to Christ, who is the one who paid the price for sin. He demonstrated in the most tangible way his commitment to us when he went to the cross. Those who embrace his sacrifice make a life commitment to him.

It is Jesus who is the one “who sticks closer than a brother.” It is Jesus who demonstrated the “greater love for his friends,” by laying down his life. Its is Jesus who “came to seek and to save what was lost.”

So, good for you, Mr. President. In that short, concise answer to the question about handling the constant abuses leveled at you, you have given the American people, and the world, the recipe for enduring the slings and arrows of life. This may well be your most lasting legacy.

Relationships – it’s what really matters.

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