If you remember dial-up telephones and party lines, you may want to ask your grandkids about Snapchat. The means through which people interact have certainly changed. While it’s fine to accept and embrace these changes, timeless principles should still guide the spirit of our communications. Words of kindness, encouragement, love, and forgiveness make things better. Critical words, regardless of whether they are spoken, texted, or posted, cause harm. In the coming weeks we will learn steps that lead to more positive relationships. A great first step is to improve our relationship with Christ, which will almost certainly improve our relationships with others.
A parent-child relationship is not built upon friendship; rather it is set on a stronger foundation. Paul writes in Ephesians, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” He instructs children to “honor your father and mother,” and charges fathers not to frustrate their children, but to “bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Ezra Taft Benson summed up a mother’s role as this, “It is mother’s influence during the crucial formative years that forms a child’s basic character. Home is the place where a child learns faith, feels love and thereby learns from mother’s loving example to choose righteousness.”
In the Church
Every organization, team or group of people almost always has one thing for which they are ultimately recognized. The Golden State Warriors are known for unbelievable three point shooting. Apple is known for its innovative principles yet simplicity in design and use. Even ISIS is recognized for its adherence to its radical beliefs and goals. Jesus said, Christians should ultimately be known by one thing, too. LOVE. He said in John 13:35, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” The early Christians did life together. They shared with, cared for and respected each other. Those identifying traits will be recognized and attractive to others even today.
With Your Spouse
Ephesians 5:21 says we should “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (NIV) Husbands and wives are supposed to demonstrate mutual respect for each other. Human nature makes this seem unnatural, but God calls all of us to be humble enough to do it. If we realize we must first submit to God, it will be easier to submit to our spouse. Understanding two are better than one, but also having those two in a relationship with God will make the relationship even stronger and our marriages will thrive. As we form a close relationship with each other and God, we create a bond that cannot be broken.
With the World
While it’s easier to live our lives surrounded by fellow Christians, we are faced with living in the world. Jesus knew this would be our situation when He prayed that His disciples (that would include you and me) would not be taken out of the world (John 17:15 NIV). Why did He pray this? Jesus didn’t seclude Himself from the world because He knew those in the world needed Him. How do we accomplish this same way of living without being changed? What we need to do is found in Romans 12:2 (MSG), “Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.”
Real-ationships in Crisis
As Christians, we are taught to forgive. Disagreements and confrontations will occur in life. The Bible clearly defines how we are to deal with those disagreements. Ephesians 4:32 (NIV) tells us to “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” God expects forgiveness from his children. He gave us the perfect example of forgiveness through His Son, Jesus Christ who died on the cross and earned God’s forgiveness for us. In His Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15 (NIV)
As you read the gospels, it becomes very clear that people wanted to get close to Jesus. They wanted to be close enough to see Him, hear His words, and touch His garments. The closer they got, the closer they wanted to be. People wanted to be His friend. Being a friend of Jesus was unlike any previous relationship. With Jesus, people found generosity, love, mercy, and forgiveness. His friends had fun. They were inspired. Their lives got better. Jesus gave us the perfect relationship model. He welcomed all kinds of people into His life. He did so unselfishly. And lives were changed.
Father’s Day Panel
A dedicated and devoted father competed in a variety of long distance races pushing his adult disabled son in what was basically a large stroller. This dad was going to extraordinary lengths to allow his son to be able to experience some small part of life outside the bounds of his disability. It was a story of incredible sacrifice and incredible love much like the great love of God. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (NIV) There is no greater love than our Father’s love for us!