It’s possible to be around someone for years, to be familiar with their quirks and their personality, and still not truly know them. It happens all the time in the workplace, at church, and especially in online communities.
“Look, there’s Harvey. He’s so predictable, always here early to greet people.”
“Uh-oh, here comes Gina. I wonder what she’ll complain about today?”
“You gotta see PlushChibi2008’s post today. She’s at another anime con. Can you imagine having the freedom to travel like that?”
Frequent, regular exposure to the surface of somebody’s life is familiarity. If they share a lot of details about their surface life, it can feel like intimacy. You can know what they ate for lunch yesterday, which movie they watched last night, hear all about their last date with their latest fling. You can become very familiar with some of the details of someone’s life.
But intimacy is something else.
There’s Knowing, and Then There’s Knowing
Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain… ~ Genesis 4:1
Yep, I went there. The Christian Standard Bible version says Adam “was intimate with his wife Eve.”
“Whoa, Teddi, whoa! Why are you talking about sex now? I thought we were talking about relationships with family and friends and fellow church goers!”
Settle down. Let me show you.
Even when we’re talking about growing deeper relationships with others in our church Life Groups, this distinction between familiarity and intimacy is important. You see, true intimacy involves intercourse, an exchange of something. Of course (biblically speaking) this knowing is only a physical, sexual intercourse when it’s between a married couple. The rest of the time, it’s a spiritual closeness and a spiritual exchange.
Spiritual Seed (The Good Kind)
Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever ~ 1 Peter 1:22-23
This truth is fundamental to the Christian experience: When we are born again, it is because God’s Word — that incorruptible seed — is planted in our hearts. “With the heart one believes, resulting in righteousness and with the mouth one confesses, resulting in salvation.” (Romans 10:10)
Your salvation, and mine, is a reality because God was intimate with us. And we were intimate with Him. We can hear the gospel message again and again, but it’s the day that we receive it, that we believe it as true and take it into ourselves as a reality that the exchange happens. And new life is sparked.
But the intimacy doesn’t stop there. If that first seed lands on good ground, it grows up into a fruit-bearing tree that then spreads more seed. God has many words that operate as seeds, and these words also bring life and bear fruit. (Mark 4:14-20)
Seeds grow into the type of plant that they came from, right? This is why when you do a bible study on healing, and continue to be intimate with those words, those seeds, you will experience healing in your life (and in the lives of people you pray for). The word of God about healing produces faith for healing.
When you do a study about forgiveness, that seed will produce forgiveness. When you do a study about God’s principles for handling money and resources, that seed will produce wisdom and positive results in your finances. Roman 10:17 explains, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” It doesn’t use the word “seed”, but now that you understand that God’s word is a seed, you can see the connection, can’t you?
Spiritual Seed (The Bad Kind)
Remember how Adam and Eve chose to eat of the tree of “the knowledge of good and evil”? This is my own speculation, but when you look at the metaphor (and spiritual reality) of words as seeds, you realize that the good seeds and bad seeds point right back to that tree. God said, “Don’t eat this one, it holds death,” and the serpent said, “Go ahead and eat it, because it will make you wise, like God. You should have the chance to know and decide good and evil for yourself, just like God does.”
The first couple were told two things. Given two seeds. God’s word-seed is life, pure good. But when they chose to know intimately both good and evil, they loosed on the world both kinds of seeds.
Bad seed works the same way as good seed. The serpent whispered to Eve, “Look at that fruit, doesn’t it look good?” That is what we call temptation: a bad seed is dropped on you.
At this point, NOTHING HAPPENS unless you take that seed into your heart, intimately. If you walk away when tempted, the bad seed is left behind. If you walk away, but then later come back and put the seed in your pocket to look at again later, you’re at risk.
But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own desires. Then when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. ~ James 1:14-15
God’s seed gives birth to good things. Corrupt seed gives birth to death. Sometimes it’s the death of your conscience. The death of your integrity. The death of your confidence. The more fruit the bad seed produces, the more the death spreads. Death of relationships and intimacy with God, death of your health and your hope. Ultimately, the enemy of our souls wants to steal everything good that we have, lead us down a path that ends in physical weakness and death, and even to destroy our legacy and anything good we ever accomplished.
But there’s a way to stop that downward spiral.
Just Hearing It Isn’t Intimacy
The good news about bad seed is that just being tempted, just hearing those thoughts in our heads, is not enough to plant the seed.
The bad news about good seed is that it works the same way.
You can sit in church for decades, and hear the Word of God preached again and again, and still experience no change in your life. The Pharisees studied the Old Testament until they had it memorized, and yet Jesus condemned them for being empty vessels (dry ground). The seed was there, but it had not taken root because it was not received into the soil of their hearts through believing obedience.
Don't just listen to God's word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don't obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look intently into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don't forget what you heard, then you will be blessed in what you do. ~ James 1:22-25
Intimacy With Each Other
“All this talk of seeds and giving birth, but I thought we were talking about growing intimate relationships with fellow Christians! You sure got off track.”
Did I? Let’s bring this back around. Familiarity is not intimacy. Familiarity is relationship at a surface level. No seeds are exchanged, nothing is planted. Or maybe you plant a little patch of green grass and it looks pretty enough. You smile and talk about how your week went over coffee. But the grass roots don’t go deep, and as soon as you stop watering it, it withers up and dies within days or weeks.
Intimacy means you both open up more, you expose the soil of your hearts to each other. And then — this is the important part! — you make sure that you’re planting good seeds, incorruptible seeds, the seeds that matter. Healthy Christian intimacy is planting the seeds of God’s words into the hearts of those around you.
Intimacy Isn’t For Everyone
That is, you don’t need to be intimate with everyone. In fact, you shouldn’t be. I talked about this a little bit in the first post in this series. Now that you see the ways that seeds work, I hope you see the danger of letting “bad seed” land in your heart and take root there.
Find people who consistently speak word-seed that comes from God. They don’t have to quote scripture all the time, but their words should be based on sound biblical principles. You’ll recognize it better when you’ve become familiar with God’s word yourself.
Because of the nature of intimacy (it develops close emotional bonds), it’s wise to save your close friendships for people of the same gender as you are. This isn’t a legalistic thing (”Thou shalt not”) or an old-fashioned thing (”Friendships between men and women isn’t a big deal these days”), this is about seeds and their undeniable nature. When you open your heart and seeds are exchanged, things are born. Making those exchanges with someone of the opposite sex carries some extra risks that should be considered.
When you’re with people who throw bad seed around like confetti, keep your heart guarded. Sweep the bad seed off the soil of your heart by countering the bad with good. If there’s a way within the context of your relationship to offer a good word, do it. But you don’t have to argue with them or address them at all to preserve your heart. Just find a chance to tell yourself something good when they’re not around.
If they complain about constant problems (”Murphy’s Law!”), just remind yourself, “The law of liberty is at work in my life, and I’m blessed in all I do” (James 1:25). If they are bitter toward their circumstances or others you work with, guard against that attitude infecting your outlook with “God, you surround me with favor as with a shield and I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me — even deal with this toxic environment” (Psalm 5:12 and Philippians 4:13).