i have been doing a study on the book of galatians by tim keller this spring. it is incredible and i highly recommend it to everyone! here are some excerpts from his chapter on gospel relationships (galatians 5:26-6:5):
"the gospel creates a whole new self-image which is not based on comparisons with others. only the gospel makes us neither self-confident or self-disdaining, but both bold and humble. because of the gospel, we neither earn our worth through approval from people not through power over people, so we are neither overdependent on others, nor afraid of commitment and vulnerability. that works itself out in relationships with everyone."
"moralism often makes relationships into a blame game. why? the moralist is very consciously try to earn salvation through performance, and that includes relationships. moralists must maintain a self-image of being a 'good person.' now some moralists do so by laying the blame on others, by being very judgmental and by always insisting that they are right. there is a lack of teachability, humble admission or error or listening. but moralists can also play the blame-game by laying the blame on themselves. moralists can 'earn their salvation' and convince ourselves we are worthy persons through being very willing to help others. this kind of self-salvation superficially makes the moralist look very open to listen, very humble, very teachable. but this can be co-dependency, a form of self salvation through severely needing people's approval or through needing people to need you (i.e. saving yourself by saving others). so moralism works through either blaming others or blaming yourself. either way it makes relationships tortuous.
on the other hand, hedonism reduces relationships to a negotiated partnership for mutual benefit. hedonism says: 'a relationship is fine as long as both people are helping each other reach their goals.' but as soon as a relationship entails major sacrifice, the hedonist labels it dysfunctional and bails out. (there are dysfunctional relationships but only when the sacrifice is being done out of needy selfishness and not out of fullness of love.) so, for the hedonist, you only relate to another as long as it is not costing you anything. so the choice (without the gospel) is to selfishly use others or to selfishly let yourself be used by others. but the gospel leads us to do neither. we do sacrifice and commit, but not out of a need to convince ourselves or others we are acceptable. so we can love the other person enough to confront, yet stay with the person when it does not benefit us."
i am a moralist through and through. i have played both sides of the moralist, my latest struggle being the latter. this study of galatians has opened my eyes to the gospel and what it means for my life after i am saved. it has brought me to tears many times. i constantly need to be reminded of it. this moralist needs to be reminded that she is fully loved and accepted by god, no matter what. my failure in relationships and friendships is just another picture of my broken life that i have tried to control. i think i am finally beginning to understand the gospel and my life is changing. just ask those around me.