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Jesus set out a radical manifesto for redeemed relationships in the Sermon on the Mount. This series calls for a relationships revolution - fuelled by love. A bold vision for a different Northern Ireland built on strong and just relationships. It involves everyone in society, from individuals to churches and government.

#RR1 WHY REL ATIONSHIPS?

R E V O L UTION

#RR1 WHY REL ATIONSHIPS?

Design: alice@weoften.com

R E V O L UTION

The Evangelical Alliance is the largest body serving evangelical Christians in the UK. Our mission is to present Christ credibly as good news for spiritual and social transformation. Downview House, 440 Shore Road. Newtownabbey, BT37 9RU. Tel: 028 9029 2266 Web: www.eauk.org/northern-ireland Email: nireland@eauk.org

R E L AT I O N S H I P S R E VOL U T I O N

We dare to see Northern Ireland as a world-leader – a place where broken things are given the opportunity to be made whole and where relationships grow healthier, stronger and deeper.


WWW.EAUK.ORG/NORTHERN-IREL AND

This is the first in a series of booklets from the Evangelical Alliance. Volume One _Why Relationships?

#RR1

Relationships are what life is all about.

This is obvious but often overlooked. Through relationship we find our sense of identity, purpose, belonging and wellbeing. Good relationships improve health, happiness and life expectancy.

We are made in the image of a relational God At the centre of the universe is a relationship – God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Christians worship a God whose essence is a community of persons in relationship. Every human being is made in the image of a relational God, to be in relationship with Him, each other and the earth. It is through relationship that the immense love of God is learned and lived. Christians are for right relationships; we believe that everyone is worthy of being treated with dignity and respect. Sadly this is not always the case. We live in a fallen world with broken relationships and we are charged with change – to be revolutionary. The Sermon on the Mount is nothing less than a subversive relational manifesto.

Jesus calls for a radical relationships revolution – love your neighbour becomes love your enemy. Transforming society is about getting relationships right – with God and others. We must understand the value of relationships in society, articulate a Christian vision for right relationship and create an environment in which these new relationships can flourish. A truly prosperous society focuses on all that makes life worthwhile – wellbeing, family, relationships and the welfare of others. Christians are called to live, work and advocate for this reality.

“SEEK THE PEACE AND PROSPERITY OF THE CITY WHERE I HAVE SENT YOU INTO EXILE, AND PRAY TO THE LORD ON ITS BEHALF, FOR IN ITS WELFARE, YOU WILL FIND YOUR WELFARE.” Jeremiah 29:7

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R E V O L UTION

“IT WOULD BE A HAPPIER WORLD IF CIVIL SERVANTS WERE REQUIRED AT THE END OF EVERY POLICY PAPER THEY WROTE TO INCLUDE A PARAGRAPH ASSESSING ITS RELATIONAL IMPLICATIONS FOR THE SOCIETY THEY ARE SERVING.” Sir Joe Pilling, former Permanent Secretary at the NIO.

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Relationships are under increasing threat Most people believe relationships are important, but that is no guarantee of good practice. For many, relationships are fragile, easily broken under pressure and casually disregarded. Most of us like the idea of commitment and of others having a personal obligation to us, but we also enjoy freedom to do our own thing. Prevailing individualism suggests that relationships are only important to the extent to which they work for me, supporting my preferences and desires. This unhealthy focus on the rights of an individual outside of the context of community leads to further unintended consequences. By viewing our relationships disproportionately through a lens of personal rights we erode personal responsibility and respect. When conflict arises weak relationships often fail – with devastating consequences as we have witnessed in Northern Ireland. Our society puts the relationships we say we value under intolerable pressure. Relationships require care and nurturing. On one level this is really basic, but too often relationships are taken for granted when it comes to balancing our time and commitments well. Consumerism equates personal happiness and wellbeing with the purchase and accumulation of material possessions – even commodifying sex. Statistics show increased levels of pornography use, casual sex and prostitution – further detaching sex from relationship.

The cost of relationship breakdown We live in a culture that cheapens relationships to dangerously disposable levels. Only seven percent of co-habiting couples are still together after 10 years, yet ‘no-nups’ (couples who sign a legal contract before moving in together) are a growing group. STIs are rising, human trafficking is a growing local issue and the divisions of our past conflict still affect us today. But these are just symptoms, the underlying cause is a breakdown in relationships. When relationships go right they provide significant benefits for society. Family businesses are the backbone of the UK economy, employing 9.5 million people and contributing £73 billion in tax. Carers, usually family members, provide unpaid care worth almost £90 billion each year. When relationships go wrong the consequences include separation, abuse and conflict leading to reduced trust, damaged lives and failed families. Family breakdown contributes to a wide variety of social problems causing distress to individuals, families and communities. Relationship breakdown costs a staggering £46 billion each year. That equates to £1,541 per UK tax payer. Current policy focuses on tackling the symptoms, not the cause.

“WE ARE EXPERIENCING A PERIOD OF FAMILY MELTDOWN WHOSE EFFECTS WILL BE AS CATASTROPHIC AS THE MELTDOWN OF THE ICE CAPS. IT IS AS BIG A THREAT TO THE FUTURE OF OUR SOCIETY AS TERRORISM, STREET CRIME OR DRUGS. BUT FAR MORE INSIDIOUS. IT WILL BE MORE DESTRUCTIVE THAN ANY ECONOMIC DECLINE CAUSED BY INTERNATIONAL MARKET OR FINANCIAL MOVEMENTS TRIGGERED BY MISMANAGEMENT BY FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS.” Mr Justice Coleridge

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R E V O L UTION

We are the revolution a radically simple every day every body way of life.

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“ALL THE BROKEN AND DISLOCATED PIECES OF THE UNIVERSE— PEOPLE AND THINGS, ANIMALS AND ATOMS— GET PROPERLY FIXED AND FIT TOGETHER IN VIBRANT HARMONIES, ALL BECAUSE OF HIS DEATH, HIS BLOOD THAT POURED DOWN FROM THE CROSS.” Col 1:20 (The Message)

Relational Poverty We are suffering from a poverty of trust and fidelity, failing to understand our identity as divine image bearers and relational beings. At the core of issues like pornography addiction, prostitution, casual sex, conflict and marital breakdown is relational poverty. We need to invest time, energy and money into building strong relational capital in Northern Ireland. The concept of relational or social capital can be seen clearly in two examples, gangs and churches. Gangs have high levels of bonding social capital - they build strong ties between members - and we see this resource in certain sections of our society already. More important though is bridging social capital, the ability to build strong ties across different ages, races, classes etc. Churches are particularly strong here and act as the model for further relational transformation. We need a radical re-prioritisation of relationships in Northern Ireland. Books / Links & Useful info... - Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 is a radical relationships manifesto (for a fresh translation try it in The Message) - The Jubilee Centre: an organisation encouraging Christians to shape society according to biblical principles www.jubilee-centre.org - The Relationships Foundation: Studies and promotes the benefits of healthy relationships, and examines how relationships are affected by culture and policy www.relationshipsfoundation.org - The R Factor by Michael Schluter and David Lee - presents a critique on how strong societies are built through relationship. - www.eauk.org/northern-ireland

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OUR CONNECTIONS

OUR CHURCH

OUR CULTURE

Take a screen sabbath – turn off the ipad/phone/tv one night a week and make someone else your priority.

Love your neighbour – work together with another local church or group of churches on a specific project, start a local inter-church football team/tournament and bring your neighbours.

Relational poverty – we need to start talking about this reality and prioritising this alongside spiritual and material poverty.

Cross a generation – call your (grand)parents out of the blue, visit the oldest person in your street and ask what you can do for them or offer to mentor a younger person. Be generous – pay for the coffee or parking of the person behind you in the queue, throw a dinner party, volunteer your time and talents, welcome others into your home often. Prioritise people – block out time in your diary for people, make someone first for a day. Love your neighbour – put their bin out, invite them round, pray for them, just say ‘hello’. Love your enemy – write a letter to a politician you disagree with to encourage them, practise forgiveness. Pass it on – give this leaflet to someone else.

Run a course – put on a parenting or marriage course for those in your church and community. Go and make disciplers – mentor and be mentored. Count your contacts – add up how many relationships your church is in (for example with local community groups, business, statutory agencies or missionary organisations). Relational capital – make sure everyone in the church gets together from time to time – this is vital for building strong relationships. Write a ‘relationships charter’ – This would deal with, among other things, conflict resolution, agreeing not to overload your church calendar to protect family life and speaking well of one another, corporate responsibility.

Call the Council – call for your local council and the NI Assembly to develop a Relational Impact Assessment looking at the effects on family and community for all new policies. Speak well – Support our call for the NI Assembly to adopt a Good Relations Commitment between MLA’s – (respectful interaction, disagree well, no personal attacks etc). Pray – Contact your local council, MLAs and MPs, social services, PSNI and offer to pray with them. Offer your buildings, your services, your people. Invite them along and ask what your church can be praying for. Be a catalyst for change – Begin the public conversation about how we re-imagine and redeem relationships within Northern Ireland. Be a cultural architect – what is your dream or vision for your street, town, city, country?

LET ’ S START T H E 6

Why relationships?  

Relationships are what life is all about. This is obvious but often overlooked. Through relationship we find our sense of identity, purpose,...