Relationships are the building blocks of our society. They establish interaction, communication and provide the method by which live in a society, city, country, etc. Relationships exist on a multitude of levels and each plays a role in our lives. Think about those with whom you interact with on a regular basis:
- Co-worker or Schoolmate
- Waiter or Waitress
- Family members
- Adversary or Enemy
Each of these relationships exists for different reasons in our lives. Each is founded on something different; our expectations, involvement and commitment to these relationships vary significantly. Some of our relationships have developed over long periods of time and others have been formed very quickly. Some of our relationships will last a lifetime, others are seasonal and still others are transactional.
Relationships are the key to happiness, fruitfulness and even holiness. How we interact with God, the devil and our fellow man determines just about everything in our lives. It is our relationships and our relating within those relationships that are the keys to our success and happiness.
Let’s cover the simple things first:
Our Relationship with the Devil
The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. (John 10:10)
Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)
Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. (Ephesians 6:11)
Whether we like it or not or even if we believe it or not; we have a relationship with the devil. He is the adversary of our souls. He seeks to separate us from God and to steal, kill and destroy in our lives. As a born-again believer your relationship with the devil changes from an adversary hell-bent on your eternal damnation to an adversary who was defeated by the risen Christ. When Jesus rose from the grave he spoke these words to His disciples:
“I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
As believers we have received delegated authority from Jesus to live in victory over the strategies, temptations and devices of the devil. We have been commissioned by Christ to enforce His victory over Satan by liberating the captives; preaching the gospel.
The basis of a Christian’s relationship with Satan is the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ. We have our dealings with the powers of darkness based on our relationship with Jesus. As a result of this relationship with Jesus our interaction with the devil is victorious. If we interact with Satan or demonic power outside of a relationship with Jesus Christ there can be no expectation of victory. It is only through Jesus Christ that humanity can be set free from the power of the enemy.
Our relationship with God
All human relationships with God must be established on the lordship of Jesus Christ.
Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)
Our perception of who God is and who Jesus is determines our relationship. What position have we given to the Lord in our lives? Is He the Savior who came to forgive our sins and rescue us from hell? Is He the King of kings and the Lord of lords? Is He Almighty God, who rules the heavens and the earth? Is He the absolute Sovereign of the universe? Is He I am that I am, the God of the eternal present tense? Is He the one in whom we live, move and have our being? Is His Word truth, life and even law? Who have we made Him in our lives?
The answer to these questions definitely determines our interaction with God. The answers to these questions are a revelation of who God is in our lives? Simply, He must be God. We cannot embrace God in only one facet of His being or character. We cannot honestly decide which truths about Him are acceptable to us or which part of the scriptures we will choose to believe if we honestly believe He is God. Does this mean that we are perfect? No. We are still being changed into His image, from glory to glory, as we surrender more of our lives to His lordship. If Jesus Christ is God Almighty and we truly believe that He is then our relationship with Him must be built upon more than just love. If He is God then there is a holy reverence and awe in this relationship. Though we have been redeemed and adopted into the family of God, our relationship is only possible because of grace. It is this element or basis of relationship that causes us to pursue God, always remain thankful, praise, worship and obey the scriptures. As a Christian we cannot have a biblical relationship with Jesus Christ unless He is both Savior and Lord.
Let’s talk about the complicated things.
Our Relationship with People
It is normally our relationships with people that complicate our lives the most. The main reason is that there is imperfection on all sides of the relationship. Everyone involved in a human relationship is susceptible to failure. We all are the products of our relationships, decisions and experiences and depending on those relationships, decisions and experiences we may see the world in radically different ways.
I don’t want to be Dr. Phil; but I want o give you a few basic points that will assist you in relating to people from a biblical standpoint.
1. God loves every person equally and wants them in heaven with you.
This is sometimes hardest thing for the believer to truly grasp. The Christian foundation for relationships with every human should be love and more specifically God’s love. The realization that God loves your friend, family member, co-worker, spouse, child, IRS Agent, salesman, employee, boss, bully or mean girl at school or even the jerk you can’t stand will change your perspective on how you relate to them.
This realization does not change the facts that you already know about these people, but it does reveal additional facts about these people that gives you a clearer picture of who they are. Regardless of their sins, their crime or even their obnoxious behavior, God wants to save everyone you love, everyone you are indifferent towards and even everyone you dislike or despise. The offer of salvation goes out to all and this is one of the foundations for the relationships that we have. If you will allow this fact to be settled within you it will change how you relate to people.
2. Relationships are not always equal
One of the greatest reasons for failure in relationships is a lack of candor and clarity between the parties in the relationship. When the basis of the relationship is different and the expectations of the relationship are different and there is a lack of communication concerning this there tends to be a lot of drama and/or disappointment arising out of the relationship.
You feel “A” towards a person and are operating under the assumption that they feel “A” towards you as well. “A” could be love, friendship, respect, or any number of things. Drama occurs when “A” does not exist where we thought it did or where “A” does not exist in the same intensity we thought it did.
To be plain, you are not a mind reader. If you assume feelings and sentiments without discovering them your expectations for the relationship are skewed and there is a greater chance for drama and or disappointment in the relationship because you have assumed what someone else is thinking or feeling. This is many times a result of being self-absorbed or selfish in a relationship.
You have a goal for every relationship that you are in. You may have never written it down or communicated it to the other person but it exists in your heart and mind. The other half of your relationship is in the same situation. They have a goal for their relationship with you. Understanding this will help you relate to people a lot easier. For a relationship to be successful both sides do not have to be equal nor do they need to have the same goals for the relationship. If this were true we could never have a relationship with God.
Think about the goals of a relationship on these levels for a moment:
- Parent and a child
- Pastor and a church member
- Teacher and a student
- Husband and a wife
- Employer and an employee
None of these relationships are equal, yet all of them can be successful, fruitful and even loving. One of the major sources of inequality in our relationships is human need. Each of us has the same basic needs, but we each have different needs as well. Understand what the other half of your relationship needs from you. You don’t have to spiritualize it or blow it out of proportion you simply need to understand it.
3. Relationships are not machines
Our relationships were not created in a factory and therefore they do not stay the same. As our lives changes and the lives of those with whom we have relationships change, our relationships change. Maturity, life goals, life changes, other relationships, successes and failures all play a role in the evolution of our relationships with others.
You are not the same person you were 2 years ago, 5 years ago or 10 years ago and neither are the people you are in relationships with. For relationships to be successful we must allow for the growth and change of others in our lives as well as our own growth and development.
Interests change, priorities change and yes, relationships change. We cannot be successful in a relationship by expecting someone to be who they were; we must interact with them based on who they are now.
4. Multiples levels of relationships are always complicated.
One of the greatest strains on any relationships comes when there are multiple levels to that relationship. Have you ever managed a spouse, child or friend in a working environment? Complicated.
Does this mean these complications to our relationships should be avoided? That’s a big grey area and it greatly depends upon each individual relationship. My only word of advice is to realize that things will be complicated when you add additional layers to your relationships and that they will always change.
You have to relate and be in relationship with people in order to fulfill God’s plan and will for your life. The success of your relationships will determine the success of your life. How you treat people and relate to people is a clear revelation of your character and faith.
Realize you are imperfect, love people with God’s love, get to know and understand them, live the Golden rule and expect them to make mistakes.
When a relationship fails it is because all parties in the relationship failed. When a relationship is successful it is because all parties in the relationship have finally come to know and accept one another.