This morning, we’re starting a new series that will serve as a guide to healthy relationships. A relationship is simply a connection between two people. Just because two people are connected, that doesn’t make it a good connection nor a healthy connection nor a connection that should even be there.
For example, when my hand is connected to the handle of a hot pan, that’s a healthy and mutually beneficial relationship. However, when my hand is connected to the bottom of a hot pan, that’s a dangerous and unhealthy relationship. It’s the same hand and the same pan, but the connection can either be a good thing or a really bad thing!
Now if that same hand and that same pan come into connection when the pan is cool, they can relate in any way and have it be a healthy thing. The circumstances have simply changed.
If your spouse is raging hot mad at you, that’s probably not the best time to go to them and wrap them up in a big, bear hug and refuse to let go of them. You might just get hurt! If they are sobbing in despair, that’s a great time to go to them and wrap them up in a big, bear hug and refuse to let go of them.
Same people, same connection, same relationship, but different circumstances.
Relationships can be hard. If you stop and think about the times that you have hurt the most or been the most angry it was likely caused by a relationship with someone; a connection with them. It was likely someone very close to you such as a spouse, parent, child, friend or someone that you invested a lot of yourself into such as an employer.
However, if you stop and think about some of the best times of your life and fondest memories, they also were likely experienced in the context of a relationship with someone.
Getting close to someone and choosing to trust them and make them a part of your life comes at a very high risk. However, the risk of that connection can also come with a very great reward.
It makes you wonder what was God thinking…
He chose to create us very uniquely and differently from one another.
Sure, some of us are more alike than others. However, even identical twins who could not share more in common end up different from one another. They shared a womb, most of their DNA, the way that they are raised, the school that they attend, and more and they still end up being very different from one another in many ways.
God did all of this on purpose. One of the main purposes for this was for us to need one another. You have abilities and strengths that I do not have. I have abilities and strengths that you do not have. No matter how independent of a person you might be, there are still needs that you have that can only be met by others.
We need one another. We need connected to one another. We need relationships.
Our differences were intended to make us better together. God’s intent was that we would complement each other and meet one another’s needs. It was purposed that we would live in community and in harmony with one another.
However, our differences seem to more often cause more friction and irritation between one another than they do attract and connect us. Even between spouses, the opposite attributes that once attracted them together early in their relationship often end up causing division later on. In fact, Paul wrote about marriage and said:
1 Corinthians 7:28
If you do marry, you have not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life.
For those who are married (or divorced), you likely have had times when you thought that you made a huge mistake. Paul outright says that if you marry, you have not sinned. It will feel like it from time to time, but you really didn’t do anything wrong. 🙂
What was God thinking? Why did He create us so different from one another, but to need connection to one another?
Well, He also gave us some tools that can make our connections to others, our relationships, good and healthy. Over the next several weeks, we’ll be learning how to receive and use these tools.
The first tool is one of the toughest ones. Better than any Snap-On or Craftsman, this tool endures all things. Nothing can stand against it and it lasts forever. As resilient and strong and durable as this tool is, it doesn’t have a very masculine reputation.
This tool is God’s love.
To express God’s love is to fully satisfy everything that God expects of us. It is to live this life to its fullest. God’s word teaches us that of the three things that will last forever (hope, faith, love), love is the greatest of all.
Now in our culture and in our English language, love can be many different things. God’s love is not an emotion, not lust or sex, and is way more than just really liking something. God’s love is the Greek word agape, which is a sacrificial type of love.
In our culture, the gauge to measure love varies from really, really liking to hating. God’s measure of love goes from selfishness to selflessness. God’s love cannot exist outside of relationship. God’s love requires a connection with others through which we spend ourselves to benefit others. God’s love is to voluntarily choose to serve the needs of others.
Now, as a word of caution, to express God’s love is a voluntary choice. To be in an abusive relationship and to bow down to the abuser is not at all what this love looks nor acts like. An abusive relationship is one that we should flee from as fast as putting our hand on that hot pan. To express God’s love is not to choose to receive abuse, but to choose to serve.
The greatest example of how to love others was expressed by Jesus’ choice to be completely sinless and right in every way and yet giving His life on the cross. We were wrong and He was right. Jesus chose to become wrong so that He could make us right. The Bible says it this way:
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
1 John 3:16
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.
Following Jesus’ example, we love others the way that He has loved us.
Stop for a moment and think about the last time that you intentionally inconvenienced yourself to help somebody else. When is the last time that you helped someone who could in no way return the favor? God’s love goes way beyond even this! God’s love is extreme!
Matthew 5:43-48 (NLT)
43 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. 44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. 46 If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. 47 If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. 48 But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.
It’s one thing to inconvenience yourself to benefit someone in need. It’s extreme to do the same for someone who hates you or who has done you wrong. That can only be done through the love of God. There’s no way that we could do that on our own!
After we have received God’s love into our lives, however, we’re empowered to love others in a whole new way! When our relationship is right with God, our relationship with others can be made right as well! The love of God isn’t some kind of mushy emotion, it is a powerful, strong, unstoppable force!
Loving God and loving others with this kind of love is life-transforming and all that God asks of us!
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
1 Corinthians 16:14
Do everything in love.
The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.
1 John 3:18
Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.
1 Corinthians 13
1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
What does God’s love look and act like?
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails.
Think about how differently our relationships would look like if we were to love others this way. To be patient and kind toward others. To be content in life and to never envy what they have or who they are. To humbly honor others and to seek out what is good for them. To be honest and transparent always. To protect others, to trust them, to hope always for the best in them, and to persevere through all let-downs.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
God’s love is a protective covering for us.
1 Peter 4:8
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
* White board example *
– Write a sin in black, permanent marker
– Show that it cannot be erased
– Write over it with a red dry-erase marker
– Erase it
This is what the love of God does expressed through the covering of the blood of Christ.
When it comes to sin, love doesn’t:
– Excuse it
– Ignore it
– Enable it
– Privately confronts it
– Forgives it
– Disables it (boundaries to prevent temptation and offers help to free them from it)
Now we’ve barely even scratched the surface of the love of God and how critically important it is to receive it from God and then to allow it to flow through us into our connections and relationships with others. A healthy relationship with others begins with having a healthy relationship with God.
Join us next week as we continue digging into practical tools that God has given us as we continue along our guide to healthy relationships.