Improved relationships. We all need them…at home, at church, with extended family and in the workplace. Successful relationships require that we invest in the lives of others for the glory of God rather than for personal gain. Our relationship deficiencies often result when we fail to communicate our love and concern for others effectively. Let’s examine some biblical examples and principles that define Christian relationships.
First, we must aim to slow down, stop, and listen.
In Matthew 20: 29 – 34, we find an incident where Jesus took all three steps. Just like us, He was living a busy life as He and His disciples were traveling out of Jericho, heading for Jerusalem, where important events were to occur. In verse 28 of that same chapter, Jesus hadinstructed His disciples in the importance of serving others. Driven by compassion and servanthood, Jesus exemplified His earlier counsel as He not only stopped and listened, but He asked the two blind men that He encountered on the way to tell Him how He could touch their lives. Jesus took time to engage in conversation with these two men.
Listening well is critical to authentic and healthy relationships. We cannot listen well until we begin to pay close attention and recognize the value in others, which leads to the second point.
See the big picture.
Until we embrace a servanthood philosophy within our relationships, we will fail to recognize and nuture the God-appointed value in others. In Philippians 2:2—5, we find the following words: “Then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”
Jesus saw the big picture in the lives of the two blind beggars. Why do we struggle so to emulate Him? Maybe it’s because our own interests and goals often blind us to painful, personal events going on simultaneously in the lives of those around us. Do we miss opportunities to build up others as we hurry to our important events in “Jerusalem”? On our way to do great spiritual things, do we miss ministry occasions to bind up and heal and to speak words of affirmation and life?
When we truly see the big picture, we will discover that we need to recognize the events going on in the lives of those around us. God specializes in doing extraordinary things in ordinary people, and it’s a shame if we miss a joyful opportunity to be an instrument in God’s hands as He completes His work in the family of God.
A few weeks ago, I sat under a lecture of a recently retired pastor. He was speaking of the importance of building one another up and looking beyond the present to the bigger picture of God’s future plans. He shared that he had as many Ph.D. graduates in his former congregation as he had GED graduates. The beauty of his story is that all of those graduates were celebrated within the church community at the same level. Everyone got the exact same cake and celebratory gala. No one was just a “blind beggar”, but the congregation celebrated the big picture of those things that God does in the lives of unexpected people in unexpected situations. Doesn’t that sound just like the relationship approach our Lord Jesus would take? This leads me to our final point for consideration.
Encourage, affirm and celebrate.
Thessalonians 5:11 says: “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”
In Hebrews 10:24 we find this admonition: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” And in Proverbs 12:25, we discover the importance of affirmative, encouraging words: “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.”
As we become more skilled in listening, let us take the next step on the relationship journey by learning to speak words of encouragement and affirmation. If we truly listen to others, it is easy to discover where they are in their particular life journeys so that we speak Proverbs 25:11 words that are “like apples of gold in settings of silver.” If we stop and listen as Jesus did, we will become properly engaged, which will give us direction to speak good and proper words.
And finally, let’s consider the importance of celebration. Ecclesiastes 3:4 says there is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” Within the ceremony of the funeral event, we mourn and weep when our brothers and sisters suffer loss. We attempt to make the transition from life to death to eternal life easier for remaining loved ones. And laughter comes easy when we gather together and share the events of life. But it’s the “dance” or “celebrate” part that requires more from us. Transition is a fixed fact of life for both genders and all age groups. Even successful accomplishments can usher in difficult and painful transitions. Celebration is an antidote to difficult transitions in life. Celebration makes transition easier.
I recently faced a milestone event that included an important and what I feared would be an intimidating meeting. My husband had to be out of town for an important event as well, so I was lacking my usual spousal support. However, I had a friend who texted me almost daily with words of encouragement and support. We had planned to meet for lunch after that meeting if I did indeed survive! How my heart was touched when she treated me not only to an extravagent lunch, but she labeled it as a “celebration.”! I will never forget that lunch as long as I live. And it all started with her willingness to inquire about what was going on in my life.
She was willing to slow down, stop, inquire, and listen.
Recently, as our congregations merged as one, we experienced the excitement of celebration within transition. Who could not experience the elation as we gazed upon a sea of new faces in our gala atmosphere of colorful balloons and celebratory music? We experienced a “time to dance” and the celebratory atmosphere helped to alleviate fear and uncertainty. It was a good thing!
Maybe we can start today to improve relationships or build new ones by slowing down to offer the universal language of a smile. I believe Jesus smiled a lot in His relationships. A smile says, “I give you value.”. As we seek to emulate Jesus in His relationship style, I believe that we will be surprised and blessed at how the Father will use us to bring Him glory in all our relationships and that indeed will be cause to celebrate!