Relationships Part 1
By Benjamin Raven Pressley
Relationships. Why are they so difficult sometimes? Six of the Ten Commandments were about our relationship to other people (Exodus 20:1-17). Jesus even summed up the whole of how we should live when He said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40). From the beginning God showed His desire for a relationship with the humans He created and came down to the Garden of Eden and walked and communed with Adam and Eve in the garden. God still desires a relationship with us and for us to have good relationships with one another. When man began to institutionalize what living for God meant and created organized religions then the division between God and man became even bigger as man made up his rules on how to live for and please God. As human belief systems developed they also affected our relationships with others. A hierarchy was put in place of love and suddenly one person imagined themselves greater than another. And on it grew from Cain slaying Abel to the wars and divisions we have today. People are eat up in this day and time with selfishness, lust and greed. And look at the fruits of it: Wars, genocide, killing the born and the unborn alike, divorce, homosexuality, abuse of women, children killing parents, mothers killing their children…and the list goes on. God pretty specifically outlined what relationships with one another was supposed to be like. And where He wasn’t specific He made it clear that if our relationship with God was in order we would view others and treat others as we would ourselves. And for the most part, I hate to say it, but, people don’t want to do what it is going to take to stop this madness and get back to living within principles of peace and love. The world will more than likely get worse, not better. However, there is a remnant of people out there who want to make the change and want a peaceful and meaningful relationship with God, their spouses, their children and their fellow human beings. It is to this few I would like to write these words. You may never effect a world change, in fact it is more likely you won’t, but you can achieve love and peace in your relationships on a small scale, like your family, maybe even your church and perhaps even entire communities. It isn’t about how big it is. It may only be a husband and wife and that is OK. Any remnant that resembles what God intended is like a light shining for His glory and though it may seem to be only a candle in an immense darkness it will shine and light the path and exhibit the possibility that it can be done if you are willing. Stop thinking about how small something is and just enjoy it, bask in it and…. nourish it! Perhaps others may want to know more and want to get on board, perhaps they won’t. In the grand scheme of things it really doesn’t matter. God can take a little and do a lot, not only in the lives of the individuals who are involved but also to show others it can be done. There are many large seminars on marriage and relationships but I wonder about how effective large seminars really are. I’m not against seminars and such and they do help some times but I think that many get left behind because it becomes more about the masses. It keeps us from having to face and help an individual one on one. Jesus was about one on one. He always favored the individual over the masses. Sure He drew the crowds but that wasn’t His intention. He preferred going to a lone woman at a well (John 4:1-26), a demon possessed man living among the dead and cutting himself with stones (Matthew 8:28-34), a woman caught in the act of adultery about to be stoned to death (John 8:3-11), a short little tax collector that no one liked (Luke 19:1-10) and in His dying breath he reached out to a thief hanging on the cross next to His (Luke 23:39-43). My point, I guess, is no matter what the ministry is it should never lose sight of the one. It doesn’t take great numbers. Jesus took 12 disciples and turned the world upside down! (Acts 17:6. Also read entire Book of Acts when you get a chance.)
So where do you start? You start with yourself. Look in the mirror and like David of old cry out, “23 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: 24 And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24). The first principle you need to learn is this: You can’t change anyone except yourself. If you spend more time looking at yourself and seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit you will find you have a lifetime of work to do just on you! So, stop trying to change others and mold them into some slave to your selfishness. You have no business being in a relationship with someone that you think it is your job to change them. If you can’t celebrate and enjoy a person for who they are don’t torment them, and yourself ultimately, and make them feel they are less of a human being than you are and try to change them to some twisted view you have of what they should be. This is especially true in marriage relationships. Stop nagging and tormenting one another. I know the scripture in 2 Corinthians 6:14 that says not to be unequally yoked together is chiefly talking about being yoked together in a marriage relationship with an unbeliever but I think if you expand your thinking a little it could mean other extreme differences you have also. If you are both pulling in opposite directions sooner or later something is going to break. That is particularly true with a believer married or even dating an unbeliever. I know, everyone who has such a relationship is just sure they will change the other for the good, and lead them to Christ, but my experience has observed that most of the time it goes the other way. If you are in such a relationship beware, our enemy, the devil, is going to try to use it to drag you down. In any relationship whether friend, dating or spouse one must always consider, ‘How is it affecting your relationship with God?’ Are you drawing closer to God or are the things of God not as important as they used to be? Be honest. Being unequally yoked can also apply to both spouses being of different denominations if they are very different. Now if both husband and wife married but were not believers at the time I have seen some cases where the unbelieving spouse also comes to the faith largely depending on how the other lived the life before them and didn’t mistake nagging for witnessing. And if you are already married it gets more complicated and you are obligated to try to work things out. Remember what I said though, you can’t change anyone but yourself. We are all flawed. But the flipside is we all have our own individual gifts. Vive la difference! What a dull world it would be if we were all alike.
The next principle is Be content and complete in yourself. No one can complete you. Hollywood is loaded with scene upon scene of someone telling someone they think they love that they ‘complete them’. Please! No human being can complete you. Only Christ can complete you (Phillipians 1:6). Until you come to that place where you are complete in yourself you perhaps should avoid a love relationship. You aren’t ready and you will become a drain on that other person trying to draw from them what you need, under the illusion that they have the power to complete you. No human being can complete another human being! It isn’t our job to complete one another. Only Christ can complete us. When you are able to enter into a relationship in need of nothing and your potential spouse the same, then you both have something to give. Which brings me to another principle: It is about giving not getting. I know some of you are thinking, well, then how will I get what I want/need? If you are in a relationship where you both are givers and not takers you will get all you need and more! A lot of relationships are approached like some people do their bank accounts. If you aren’t putting anything in and you are always taking something out how long do you think it will be before there is nothing left to withdraw? But if you are both giving then there is no need to withdraw anything because your needs and desires are already met. If one or both of you are takers what usually happens sooner or later when that person is drained from trying to keep the other one happy then the one no longer receiving gets mad and begins tormenting the other with lines like ‘you don’t love me anymore’ or ‘you used to do this, you used to do that’. If you don’t love and respect one another the relationship is destined to fail, be miserable and often becomes abusive. Abuse comes in many forms, it isn’t always physical, most often it is emotional or psychological. One person trying to control the other, trying to squeeze something out of them they just don’t have to give. And you are wrong if you think they should give, give, give while all you do is take, take, take. Even Apostle Paul got to a state of contentment in whatever state he was in whether rich or poor, high or low, alone or with someone. He makes this evident when he says, “11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. 12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Phillipians 4: 11-13). Be content in who you are. Don’t condemn or beat yourself up about your perceived imperfections (Romans 8:1). If you are in a relationship with God He rejoices in who you are and that you have believed on His Son, Jesus Christ and the work He has done. He will guide you on how to live step by step working within your limitations. He knows what we are capable of (Psalm 103:14) and He works with us not to condemn us. He wants us to succeed, not fail. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” (Jeremiah 29:11). The best thing a single/divorced person can do is to get to that place of contentment where they have no need of a spouse. It is my belief till you can be content and living a Godly lifestyle in your singleness you’re not ready for a married relationship. Paul set the example and was content being single (1 Corinthians 7:7). Trust God to bring the right person into your life in His time. I believe some people are married to the wrong person and have nothing but trouble because it was not meant to be in the first place. You have to get all the emotion and hormones out of the equation before you can hear God clearly enough when He is ready to join you with someone. More times than not if we look for a mate on our own we are usually sorry later. If you just let go and let God have the responsibility of finding you a mate you will be much happier and have a longer lasting relationship that is mutually satisfying.
My next principle is, Know the value of just being a friend. Why is it that every opposite sex relationship thinks they have to be boyfriend/girlfriend? Why can’t we just have guys that are good friends and girls that are good friends? Even a marriage relationship needs to have a strong foundation of friendship. What is a friend anyway? Well, it is a person you know and with whom you have a bond of mutual affection. Friendship is exclusive of sexual or family relations. Although your spouse should be your best friend, still your friendship should have nothing to do with sexual relations. And as far as family, yes, you may have a friend who is also related to you but even then your friendship should not have anything to do with being related to them. These two explanations are what I mean by ‘Friendship is exclusive of sexual or family relations’. The Bible says, “A good friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity.”(Proverbs 17:17). These are the type of human relations we should desire on all levels whether friend or spouse. Look at what the Word has to say about the value of friendship: “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24) “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” (Proverbs 27:6) “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” (Proverbs 27:17). 1 Samuel 18:1 decribes the friendship of Jonathan and David being so strong that their ‘souls were knit together’. Don’t undervalue friendship, both having friends and being a good friend.
The next important principle in good, healthy relationships is Love is never performance based. If you are in a relationship with someone who is always holding you to some standard, usually one they have invented, and no matter how hard you try you can never live up to it, you are in a performance based relationship. It is not love. You can never live up to someone else’s standard. A) It is constantly changing and B) you shouldn’t have to live up to someone else’s standard. Relationships like these are not even meant to have a chance of success. They are meant to control and keep another person in bondage and torment. It is like a cat toying with a mouse. No person should have to live this way. God loved us unconditionally. He loved even the most evil among us so much that He gave His Son, Jesus so we could have eternal life (John 3:16). The person may use scriptures and twist them out of context to get you to bend to their will but so did Satan when he tempted Jesus (Luke 4:1-13). In the case of the controlling husband the ‘power’ they usually wield over the wife is ‘submission of wives to husbands’. There is an entire mainline denomination who recently re-affirmed this position. I spent many years struggling with this myself. After all Ephesians 5:22 and Colossians 3:18 say just that. This is a subject I never would have tackled in the past. Thank God I have peace and clarity about it now and hope I can bring unity and understanding to the Body of Christ on this volatile subject. Now let’s look at these scriptures in context. Context, to me, means looking at the whole subject which includes not only considering all accompanying scriptures, and other scriptures on the subject, but also the character of God and what He has told us about Himself.
Alright, you’re going to need your Bible for this part. There are way too many scripture references for me to type out here. I am using the King James Version, hopefully the version you have says the same thing, if not, compare. First let’s read Colossians 3:17-24. While you are reading this passage, especially you men, don’t just focus just on that scripture about wives submitting to husbands. This passage describes relationships husband to wife, wife to husband, children and parents, even servants. Now read Ephesians 5:21-33. Again do not just focus exclusively on wives submitting to husbands. Take a broader look at how these scriptures are trying to describe a bigger picture, a picture of us all submitting to one another. Verse 21 starts out telling us to submit to one another. All of these passages point us to look at a bigger picture, a larger goal, namely, that Christ “might present to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:27). As self-centered human beings we have a tendency to make it all about us and our comfort and our needs. Well, it isn’t about us. It is always about Jesus. He is always at the center of everything. It is about us being in unity like a body (John 17). Submitting, the way many people translate this passage, is kind of like commanding someone to love them. Love can’t be commanded or forced. Even when Jesus said if we love Him keep His commandments (John 14:15). He wasn’t commanding us to love Him. You can’t command someone to love you. That wouldn’t be love at all. He is speaking of an order, more like when we are in relationship with Him and in love with Him it will come natural for us to keep His commandments. Same with wives submitting to husbands, It isn’t a command it is saying if wives are in a loving relationship with God and their husbands there will be an order to things, they will want to submit to husbands, in other words your desire will be to serve one another. It will be natural to want to give to one another. Look at Ephesians 5:21-33 in context. Paul spends a lot of time in this passage putting things in order mostly explaining what relationship looks like and spends a lot of time talking to husbands so they know submit does not mean they rule over their wives and wives should blindly obey. We should be servants to one another. What we do we do as unto the Lord not our wife or husband. Remember Colossians 3:23, “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;” When you serve one another you should be doing it as unto the Lord. When you serve your wife or husband you are doing it unto the Lord not unto them. When you trip over those shoes in the middle of the floor you are tripping over God’s shoes. Love one another. Serve one another. If spouses would spend more time serving one another instead of arguing about who is in charge they would be much happier and both sides’ needs would be met. Husbands love your wife as your own body and your wife will want to serve you and give you the respect you want if you are doing it as unto the Lord and not just to get what you want. Wives, the same. “Let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33). Is this making sense? I know it challenges much of your traditional thinking. Let it go. Do things God’s way and things will work like they should. If men and women were living this way there would never have been a feminist uprising. It isn’t too late if you both will just see the truth in what I am saying and agree to do things God’s way. I’m telling you from experience. My wife and I live this way and we are both satisfied in our relationship. We love, respect and serve one another with all our heart and can’t wait till we see one another again.
And above all else, make sure you are in relationship with God. God is the key. Every relationship should be a trinity: you, the other person and God. What does a relationship with God look like? What does a relationship with anyone look like? It means you have a connection. It means you spend time with one another. It means you communicate with one another regularly. It means you relate with one another on a level that is personal and only understood by the two of you. It is not just reading your Bible once in a while and going to church on Sunday. Bottom line is there are none of us superior to anyone else. Jesus said if anything prefer others above yourself (Luke 14:1, 7-14).
Here are a few other verses and I could give you lots more.:
Romans 12:10 ESV
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
Philippians 2:3 ESV
Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
1 Peter 5:5 ESV
Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
John 13:34 ESV
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
1 Peter 4:9 ESV
Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.
Ephesians 4:32 ESV
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Romans 14:19 ESV
So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
1 John 4:7 ESV
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.