Reading time: two minutes. Relationships are hard. Close, loving, caring, intimate, open, trusting relationships are next to impossible. Fortunately, we walk with a God who works miracles. I’ve been thinking about the wonder of the intimate bonds I share with some wonderful people in my life; my wife Carol, family, friends, co-workers. It amazes me that those who know me best are those who love me the most! How is that even possible? You’re familiar with the warning sign: “Don’t try this on your own”? The divorce rate, the level of hostility in our political discourse and our dangerous streets all show how hard it is for people like you and me to get along. Let’s look at how God’s baptismal grace makes intimate, caring relationships a reality for followers of Jesus. Maybe you have a friendship that needs a touch of grace! The Holy Spirit makes an excellent third party to any relationship. “The fruit of the Spirit is… patience,” and patience is the key to unity. The Church has been likened to a ship, and the naves (get it: “navy”?) of many church sanctuaries are fashioned like an up-side down ship sailing to heaven. We’re all floating along together in this lifeboat, and there’s not much elbow room on the boat. In family, at work, in the neighborhood and in the church, we’re constantly bumping into each other. There’s every reason for those closest to me on the boat to get upset. Words that hurt come out too often and too easily. My annoying and unloving mannerisms follow me around every day of my life. Bad habits and self-centeredness are my standard wardrobe. How can the people around me be so patient and gracious with me? That kind of love comes only from above. None of us can offer such forgiving, patient grace to another without first receiving it. Years ago a wise pastor told me, “Don’t work closely with early adolescents if you can’t remember your own junior high years.” That’s good advice. You better know how forgiving others have been toward you if you expect to get along in patience and love with those who need it most. Daily renewal of baptism, drowning the old nature so the new creation in Christ can come alive, is not only the key to a vibrant, grace-filled life with God. It’s absolutely essential in every Christian relationship. We’re ready to live in unity with others only when confession and God’s gracious forgiveness are our life and breath. Those who love me best are those who know well the refreshing, restoring love of God in Christ. And I’m ready to love as I should when loved first by my dear Savior. Which relationship of yours needs a good washing this week? Thanks for reading.