Humans are created for relationship. Covenant relationship with God is the foundation of this reality, because God himself is relational. This is reflected firstly in God’s character – he is a trinity (Father, Son, and Spirit) which flourishes forever. But tragically, sin severed our relationship with God – and the collateral damage of this extends everywhere. A broken vertical relationship impacts every horizontal relationship. As a result of our broken relationship with God, all other human relationships – husbands and wives, parents and children, siblings, friendships, work partnerships – are now strained, painful, or dysfunctional. Sinful patterns of anger, arrogance, mistrust, indifference, unforgiveness, bitterness, jealousy, and hatred abound. This is clearly seen when marriages end in divorce, friends don’t speak, families cut each other out, churches split apart, and work partnerships dissolve.
But praise God, he did not forget us! Through Christ, we can be reconciled back to our Father and Creator. And once this vertical relationship is restored, there is now a foundation to rebuild every other horizontal relationship in the human sphere. However, even for Christians, relationships are still hard. Even if our relationship with God takes the priority it should – even if we are walking in close intimacy with him – human relationships still take energy and effort. Our own sins and the sins of those we love still provide a constant obstacle to stable, healthy, loving, God-honoring relationships.
Healthy relationships do not just happen – not even for Christians. They require time, energy, initiative, and most of all – the overwhelming Spirit and grace of God. While maintaining healthy relationships has always been difficult, the 21st century seems to present new and unique challenges.
People now commute 2 hours a day, work 60 hours a week, and feel like they have no time for other people. With growing social networks and opportunities outside the family, children now no longer need – or think they no longer need – healthy relationships with their parents and siblings to find community. The culture says that it is acceptable for any marriage to end at any time – if one partner no longer feels in love or is not having their needs met – and so, with divorce so common, the motivation to stay and work out a difficult marriage is removed.
Then of course there is technology. We work remotely instead of interacting in an office. We shop online instead of running into neighbors at the store. We order food through an app, and pick it up off a shelf without any small talk with a clerk or waiter. We send a text to a college friend instead of talking on the phone. We post about our vacation on social media instead of getting together with extended family to share pictures and stories from the trip.
All of these trends only increased during the pandemic, which increased the use of technology and remote working, learning, shopping, connecting – remote everything. After years of isolation, many of us craved community and relationships; however, others fell out of routines, lost practice, and became more uncomfortable with personal relationships, communication, social interaction. Not to mention how every aspect of our society now seems more polarized – which brings added tension to our relationships.
So what are we to do? The introverts, and those who struggle with social anxiety, might be quite content to stay closed off forever! For many, the idea of fostering healthy relationships is too difficult, too stressful, too unattainable.
But we need relationships. God has created every human in his image, and hardwired each of us to flourish amongst healthy relationships of spouses, parents, children, siblings, Christians in the church, and friends, neighbors, and co-workers out in the world. And while we all have different personalities and relational capacities, Christians do not have the option of becoming antisocial hermits.
The good news is in Christ, there is hope! We have full possession of God’s love, Gospel, Word, and his Spirit; so healthy relationships are attainable for us! Consider these six biblical keys to healthy relationships:
- Honor others as those who have value and worth. “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Rom. 12:10)
- Love others as Christ loved you. “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Eph. 5:1-2)
- Consider others more important than yourself. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Phil. 2:3)
- Build others up with words of grace. “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Eph. 4:29)
- Disagree with others with gentleness and peace. “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” (Jas. 3:16-17)
- Forgive others who have hurt you as God has forgiven you. “…bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (Col. 3:13)
Listen to our sermon series on Healthy Relationships.