I stumbled on this during my morning devotional time this morning and thought I’d share it with you, the audience that God has seen fit to give. You will also find my comments between the [brackets] below. Enjoy!
More to be RELATIONSHIPS: five key truths about relationships
We all desire healthy, meaningful, satisfying relationships with others.
We ultimately want to get along with friends, without all the drama. We want to feel loved by a special someone – a best friend now, a boyfriend at some point, hopefully a husband one day, and even through having children. We want to know that we are unconditionally loved by our parents and siblings, even when we experience a less than perfect life. We want to feel connected to others, as somehow that connection influences our sense of worth and creates a place for us to belong.
[…that is so true on so many levels…]
Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.” Genesis 1.26 NLT
Our longings for authentic and meaningful relationships are normal because that is the way we were designed. God made us to be loved, by Him and by others, and to be connected in life-giving relationships. The problems we face in our relationships are both a result of sin and unrealistic expectations [thank you Hollywood!] of others, or of God. Our culture has perpetuated the idea that we need others to validate our lives and define our worth. On the contrary!
Our worth is defined by who we are in Christ, and our relationships are designed to glorify God through how we serve one another.
If we’ve fallen into a pattern of defining our lives by our relationships, we’ll find ourselves truly disappointed and frustrated [TRUTH]. A boyfriend cannot be a public stamp of approval, indicating, “I am loved.” A spouse ought not to be a security blanket. Parents cannot become a means to an end. Relationships cannot be about making us happy, validated, or feeling valued. This is not at all what God intended.
God designed us for a personal relationship with Him through faith in Jesus Christ, and from the overflow of that relationship, we are made to pour out His love on others (Philippians 1.9, 1 Thessalonians 3.3).
And may the Lord make you love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows. 1 Thessalonians 3.12 NLT
TRUTH #1: CRAVE
We crave relationships because we’re made by a relational God and are wired for deep, unconditional love.
Long before [God] laid down earth’s foundations, He had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of His love, to be made whole and holy by His love. Long, long ago, He decided to adopt us into His family through Jesus Christ. Ephesians 1.3-14
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 2 Corinthians 13.14
From the very beginning of creation, God made us to be in relationships – with Him, first and foremost, and with others. Even so, the word relationship can’t even be found in the original Hebrew or Greek Scriptures. Only in modern translations, such as The Message, can you search for the word relationship and find a handful of key verses to meditate upon.
What you do find, however, as you look at the Scriptures, are references to the essence of relationships built on love, serving, worshiping, praying, and working together. This is reflected first and foremost in the God-head. In Genesis 1.26, the Creator refers to Himself in the plural: us. This “us” refers to what Christians call the Trinity, made up of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Although not states in the Scriptures as the Trinity, the reference is found in the Schema (Deuteronomy 6.4), where God is referred to as One, and later in the New Testament (Matthew 28.19 and 2 Corinthians 3.14), where He is named in three parts. Each part of the God-head fulfills a different purpose, but they are designed to work together, in relationship!
- God the Father is Creator of the universe and Father of all humankind.
- Jesus, present in the God-head before He ever walked this earth, is our Redeemer and Savior. As fully God and fully man, Jesus was sent by God to save His people from their sin.
- The Holy Spirit is the third party of the trinity. When Jesus departed this earth, He did not leave us alone, but gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit as our counselor and guide. The Holy Spirit dwells within each believer, drawing upon our knowledge of the Word to lead us in life and faith actions.
If we studied the Trinity closely throughout the Scriptures, we would find such beauty in the roles each part plays for the purpose of the whole. In the same way, we can look at humankind and see a similar pattern of need, purpose, and design. It is no wonder we long for connection built on sincere love. God created us this way!
TRUTH #2: CREATED
We were created to be in a personal intimate relationship with God, first and foremost, through faith in His Son Jesus as our Lord and Savior.
This is how we know we’re living steadily and deeply in Him, and He in us: He’s given us life from His life, from His very own Spirit. Also, we’ve seen for ourselves and continue to state openly that the Father sent His Son as Savior of the world. Everyone who confesses that Jesus is God’s Son participates continuously in an intimate relationship with God. We know it so well, we’ve embraced it heart and soul, this love that comes from God. 1 John 4.3-16 MSG
Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us.” Genesis 1.26 NLT
The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable helper for him.” Genesis 2.18 NIV
Within the God-head there is an inherent three-way relationship, but the design for relationships doesn’t begin and end there.
God longs to connect with His people, but this is only possible through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.
Yes, there is only one way to have an intimate relationship with God the Father, and that is through the Savior (Romans 10.9-10). This relationship cannot come through another human being, such as a pastor or priest. It must come through faith in Christ alone by confessing with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believing in your hearth that He saves you from your sin.
Long before [God] laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of His love, to be made whole and holy by His love. Long, long ago He decided to adopt us into His family through Jesus. Ephesians 13-14 MSG
Simply put, we need a Savior. We’re a messy people marked by our flesh-driven sin. We disobey God naturally, and could never meet His holy standard within our own efforts. God is absolutely perfect, holy, and unmarked by sin, and can only be in relationship with a holy people. This is why He provided the one and only perfect sacrifice, His Son, Jesus Christ, on our behalf so that we may approach Him as we are and be intimately connected in a right relationship with God.
When Christ died on the cross, He became the covering over us. God sees us through His Son. We don’t have to become perfect and blameless in order to be able to approach God. We are already acceptable to Him because Jesus fills the gap with His perfect, holy grace. Yet because of our love for our Father, we must living putting off sin and not indulging it. Jesus isn’t our free-for-all ticket to disobedience. There are consequences for our sin, including separation from God and His discipline. But there is also His grace and mercy, received through forgiveness that sets us on a new path and redeemed relationship with God as well as others.
TRUTH #3: Community
We were made to live in life-giving relationships with others for our mutual benefit and God’s glory.
In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as part of His body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s go ahead and be what we were made to be… Romans 12.5+10 MSG
As a prison of the Lord, I beg you to live in a way that is worthy of the people God has chosen to be His own. Always be humble and gentle. Patiently put up with each other and love each other. Try your best to let God’s Sprit keep your hearts united. Do this by living at peace. All of you are part of the same body. There is only one Spirit of God, just as you were given one hope when you were chosen to be God’s people. We have only one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. Ephesians 4.1-5 MSG
Accepting Christ as Lord is key to experiencing transformed relationships. When Jesus dwells within our heart and soul, our desperate need to be loved on a human level becomes less vital. That’s not to say we should live without human relationships. On the contrary, by God’s design, we do need one another.
We are called to live as the hands and feet of Christ. Every human being should be physically and practically loved by another, because God first loved us through Jesus.
When God fills us with His love, we cannot help but overflow His love onto others. When we fall into stride with this pattern of having our needs met by God first, our expectations of others shifts dramatically and what we offer them in return comes into a realistic perspective. The burden to fix and solve other problems, which is a great strain on relationships, is lessened while our ability to give from the overflow in our life becomes possible. This truth applies in all of the relationships we may experience in our lifetime (Philippians 1.9; 1 Thessalonians 3.3).
- Relationship between a husband and wife
God’s design for relationships isn’t limited to being connected with Him. He’s also passionate about us being in a relationship male to female. Likely, you can testify to this as you [may] experience a strong desire to be in a relationship with a guy…This desire is good! It is the way God made you, even if the timing to act on those feelings has not yet arrived.
Right from the beginning, God not only made man, He also made woman. In Genesis, the Word reveals that even with all the animals and an incredible opportunity to walk with God Himself, the Lord did not find a sufficient match for man. So He made woman. Out of Adam came Eve, not to replace him, boss him or cater to him. The Creator of the Universe designed man and woman together to make a complete whole. One for the other. Together, two were much better than one (Genesis 2.18, 21-24).
The New Testament teachings reflect this design in the union of marriage where a man and woman have ultimate intimacy – physically, emotionally and spiritually – under the headship of Christ.
And this is why a man leaves father and mother and cherishes his wife. No longer two, they become “one flesh.” This is a huge mystery, and I don’t pretend to understand it all. What is clearest to me is the way Christ treats the church. And this provides as good picture of how each husband is to treat his wife, loving himself in loving her, and how each wife is to honor her husband. Ephesians 5.29-33 MSG
A marriage isn’t only made up of a husband and a wife. In a Christian marriage, the relationship comes under the headship of Christ. In that regard, a marriage is a chord of three strands, strong because of the individual relationships with Christ. While a marriage can exist apart from Christ, two believers coming together in a marriage is how God designed it to exist.
It is critically important to mention that in God’s eyes, according to Scripture, a marriage is not between two people of the same gender. There are no examples in Scripture of this type of relationship meeting the qualification of marriage or as God’s design. I know, personally, that this is a difficult, tender and challenging matter to understand. If you disagree with me, you are not alone. However, there are a few key references that describe a same-sex relationship as sinful (Leviticus 18.22, 1 Corinthians 6.9, 1 Timothy 1.10) in much of the same way that committing adultery, theft, greed and idolatry are also sin. The reality is that we are all tempted with some type of sin, and often daily! Will some people struggle with same-sex attraction? Yes! Absolutely! Is it wrong to have feelings toward sinful behavior? No. But is it a bad decision to act on those temptations which the Bible tells us to turn from? Yes. We can all agree that we struggle with sin – the desire to things that are against God’s design and considered disobedience. But just because it’s hard doesn’t mean we should make it acceptable.
Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy. Hebrews 12.14
- Relationships between parents, children and siblings
As you read along in Genesis, you’ll see that God not only brought Adam a helper in Eve, but that He specifically called them to be fruitful and multiply. He saw this human relationship as something good and deemed it a worthy pursuit to create more little humans frolicking around Adam and Eve’s legs (Genesis 1.28).
The family unit is critical to God’s design and is supposed to be a source of relationship satisfaction. But, in the same way sin has tarnished the marital relationship, it has also left its mark on the family unit. We see this in terms of divorce, abuse and betrayal in so many family units. Only God’s love, grace and forgiveness can bring about true healing and the ability to move forward in emotional and spiritual health after the effects of sin has left its mark on a family.
- Relationships within the family of God
Not only did God create relationships within a marriage and family to be beneficial to the individual, He also designed the family of God, at large, to come together under the headship of Christ; all working together for the common good and His glory. The New Testament description of the body of Christ describes each person as an important, critical part not meant to stand alone. Together, each member is intended to bring their gifts, talents, personality, and perspective to be used for the mutual good of the family of God (Romans 12.5-10). The reason we don’t see this happening in the family of God is a result of sin, once again [big surprise there…]. The enemy of God worms His way into our relationships, bringing havoc on the body of Christ through petty conflict and deeply painful experiences. No matter what, however, we are called to live in peace together, if at all possible, and strive for unity. This means we daily need to walk humbly and acknowledge the forgiveness that is made ours through Christ so that offenses do not fester into infected wounds (Hebrews 12.14).
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3.13
- Relationships with non-believers
No matter where we stand in our father, whether a new believer or a seasoned Christian, we will find ourselves in relationships with people who don’t share our beliefs and might even find them offensive. Regardless of whether these people are family members, friends or strangers, we are called to be gentle, kind and humble as well as to seek opportunities to share the love of Christ and the Truth, both through actions and words. Sometimes meeting a practical need will be a far greater relationship builder than handing them Bible verses to share the Gospel message. Be prayerful, seeking God for the opportunities to do both!
What we give in these relationships should be a reflection of what we have received from Christ. We’ve been forgiven, so we should forgive. We’ve been extended grace, so we should extend grace. This is true for all our relationships.
However, in relationships with non-believers, our expectations and needs must radically shift from how engage with Christians. We cannot expect a Christ-like response from them because they have no personally experienced Christ. Nor should we pursue a deep connection because our core beliefs will not line up and their counsel, support and encouragement would like be inconsistent with Scripture. While the relationship can be very meaningful, the role we play in the relationship and our expectations need to keep in mind the warning in Scripture not to be yoked, or bonded, together with an unbeliever (2 Corinthians 6.14-15 NIV/NLT).
TRUTH #4: Challenges
We will face challenges in our relationships because of sin, but in Christ, we can find the path of redemption.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3.23
Make every effort to live in peace with all [people] and to be holy. Hebrews 12.14
If God is so into relationships, why is everything so messed up?
Why is every man not married to a woman?
Why is our culture convinced that homosexual relationships are acceptable?
Why is there infertility?
Why do parents walk out on their families?
Why do dads and moms hurt their kids?
Why is there such division and hurt within the church?
Because of sin.
Eve was deceived by the Serpent and Adam followed suit. Together, they broke God’s command not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and in doing so, sin was introduced in this world (Genesis 2, 3).
Yet, if you’re like me, this still doesn’t make sense.
Why didn’t God make a world without sin?
I don’t know.
But what I can attest to is that God’s original design has fallen short of what He intended for this world. But God is still God. He is still on the throne in the face of sin and pain and hurts and disappointments.
And in His mercy, He provided Jesus Christ and the promise of eternal life, where there is no sin, no tears, no pain, nor death (Revelation 21.4). [Isn’t that great?!]
I often think that God could have done it differently, but what would be the outcome then?
He could have made us to never sin, but where would that leave us? [No free will.] Would we be robots programmed to love and obey? Sure, God would have designed us to worship and adore Him, walking in His ways all the days of our life.
But would you like being told who you must love?
Would you like me requiring someone to love you?
The preciousness of love is that it is not required, but can be freely given.
But love is messy because it has been tarnished by sin.
Regardless of what you think God should have done, we live in a fallen world, where the desires of the flesh often trump the character of the heart.
You’ve been hurt by those who ought to have protected and cared for you. People will fail you. Words will be carelessly misspoken. Accidents will happen. Betrayal will likely mark your life at some point. Trust will be broken.
Yet this doesn’t keep us from longing for satisfying earthly relationships where we are loved, appreciated, cared for, remembered, acknowledged and received. In some cases, we will experience these gifts, but often only when both people in the relationship are striving to the Cross with a commitment to live consistently with [God’s Word]. Yet this doesn’t preclude challenges and offenses. What it does mean is that reconciliation is possible through humility and forgiveness.
The challenges we face in our sin-effected relationships have much to do with our unrealistic expectations. We turn to fallen human beings to love us with God-sized ability. Instead, we need to turn to God for His fulfilling love, and turn to others in grace receiving whatever they have to offer.
Is this hard to do? Yes! It takes time and maturity, often, to recognize God’s tangible love and to feel His physical presence n our lives. This experience of His love often comes through a shift in perspective, drawn from a willingness to live according to the Word rather than emotions or feelings. It is really a matter of focus, setting your mind and heart on the things of God and His economy principles while releasing family, friends and others from filling the God-sized hole in your heart.
Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived. Galatians 6.1-3 MSG
TRUTH #5: Correct
We can improve our relationships by correcting our thinking as we implement boundaries and apply the instructions found in the World.
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Romans 12.2 NLT
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the lord forgave you. Colossians 3.13 NLT
We established the fact that we crave relationships because that is how we were designed. We’ve also acknowledged that God’s perfect design has been marked by sin. So where does that leave us in terms of navigating through all the relationships we will have in our lifetime?
- Consider your reality
Healthy relationships are grown through healthy thinking because our thoughts determine how we feel and how we feel determines how we act and respond. Therefore, the first step in moving forward is to take an inventory, or sorts, looking at the type of relationships you have in your life and assessing where they stand in terms of emotional and spiritual health.
~ Consider how you interact with your family and friends and evaluate if they are marked by signs of love, respect, consideration and honor. Or do you see signs of mistrust, disrespect, unforgiveness and/or betrayal?
~ Also look at your own heart. Consider what you are looking for in terms of friendship and family commitment. Ask yourself if you are seeking to have your emotional needs met in an unhealthy way.
Once you get a sense of what your relationships look like and what needs you are longing to have met, seek out the Lord in prayer and give it all to Him. You might also need to take a bold step in trusting a godly mentor with your struggles or even make an appointment to talk with a Christian counselor. Relationship issues are tough and multi-layered and often require the help of a trustworthy adult or professional to move forward.
- Implement boundaries
Proverbs 4.23 teaches that we must guard our hearts for it is the well spring of our life. This means we not only need to be aware of the reality of our relationships and emotional/spiritual needs, but we need to put boundaries in place to protect our hearts from unnecessary pain. It is not wrong to put some physical space and time limitations in place for relationships that are a negative influence on you, especially if these relationships exist outside your family unit. In the same way, a fence marks off a piece of property and a lock on a front door prevents intruders, you life – spiritual, emotional, and physical – needs to have clear boundaries in place for your own protection. [I’m beginning to understand this all too well.]
- Apply the Word
Ultimately, our relationships will change if our thinking about how to engage with others comes from the instructions found in Scripture. The Word is loaded with practical directions on how to cultivate healthy relationships. The letters written by Paul to the churches (Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, and Philippians) are steeped in practical application for he was speaking to the body of Christ facing the challenge of living in community together. He urges the believers to be forgiving, compassionate and patient with one another. James is also a great portion of Scripture filled with insights on how to press on together in a trial, manager anger and listen attentively.
Relationships are hard but they are also worth the effort. [Very true…]
God designed us one for another, and most importantly, to be in a relationship with Him through faith in Jesus.
By getting right with God first and lining up your thinking with His Truth, you’ll have the ability to navigate relationships with grace and humility. When your relationship with the Lord is in a healthy place, your other relationships will have a whole new purpose, potential and perspective. Challenges will come, but with correct thinking, you’ll be able to solve issues with a measure of peace and grace. And most importantly, in Christ, you’ll be able to walk the path of forgiveness because you have been forgiven.
Relationships are worth it. Put in the time and energy to learn how to do it God’s way. You’ll not be disappointed, especially as you see Him transform your life from the inside out.
For further study…
Genesis 1.26, 28 NLT
Romans 3.21-26 CEV
Ephesians 1.3-14 MSG
Ephesians 5.5-33 NLT
Genesis 2.18, 21-24 NLT
Romans 12.5-10 MSG
Matthew 22.37-39 CEV
1 Corinthians 13 MSG
Ephesians 4.31-32 MSG
2 Corinthians 12.15-16 NIV/NLT
2 Corinthians 10.3-5 NIV
1 Thessalonians 3.3
**Copyright: @2012 all rights reserved by elisa pulliam |www.moretobe.com | firstname.lastname@example.org Experiencing Life: Transformed