Sunday, 29 September 2013

A Biblical perceptive on relationship

Relationships are the building blocks for all community organizing activities. People don't work in isolation. We need to be working together! It is our relationships all added together that are the foundation of an organized effort for change. We need to build relationships with people one-to-one if we want them to become involved in our group or organization. Our relationships give meaning and richness to our work and to our lives. The Bible is a book of relationships. It shows us what our relationship to God is meant to be and how we can have that kind of relationship. It shows us how we should interact and treat our fellow humans. The Bible also, the world's most read book, sets forth the greatest story ever told. It is a love story unlike no other, underscored by the countless demonstrations of God's love for man. We spend our entire life interaction with fellow men. How we relate to others in these relationships determines the quality of life we enjoy. Without relational interactions with other humans, our lives would have virtually no meaning or purpose. Yet, it is our interpersonal relating that creates most of our difficulties. When there are personal differences, complaints and disagreements, we ought to follow scriptural guidelines to resolve these personal difficulties.

Imagine life without any interaction with another human. No communication and commitment, no discussion and deliberation, no admiration and reflection, no love and laughs, no peace and joy, and no enjoyment and life. Obviously, relationship makes life most beautiful. Because of this reality, Jesus made it His priority to teach us how to relate in every type of relationship. In many ways, all of Jesus' teaching addresses our responses in relationships.

Loving One Another Begins with Loving God

In Matthew 22:36-39, a Pharisee asked Jesus, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”  And Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  The kind of love expressed in both of these laws is agape love. The English word "love" has many different meanings, but this "Divine love" of the Bible comes from the Greek word agape which means respect, good-will and benevolent concern for the one loved. It is deliberate, purposeful love rather than emotional or impulsive love. The King James Version of the Bible often uses the word "charity" for this kind of love. An integral relationship exists between love and holiness. Holiness transforms self-centered tendencies in human love into dynamic caring for the well-being of others.

 In regards to the second commandment, this love seeks for the greatest good for our neighbor.  By way of definition, “neighbor” in this passage refers to anyone who is around us:  our actual neighbor or the person at the desk next to us at work.  Only when God is our priority then we are sure that our other relationships are based on a firm foundation. Thus Putting the Lord first in our lives is the most important decision we could ever make. A life built around anything else but God, is a life built on shifting sand and vapor. When our relationship with God is our most important relationship, all other relationships will be what they are meant to be. In other words, only when God is our priority can we be assured that our other relationships are based on a firm foundation.

Loving One Another Begins with Loving God. Love must be based in God's reality. Love should not be hypocritically Pharisaical. The unconditional love of God is enduring without exhibiting undue anger, irritations, or annoyance. Love has the courage to change the things it can, the serenity to accept the things it cannot change and the wisdom to know the difference. Love is kind as it builds others up since it is more constructive than destructive. Christ's love is full of the Spirit joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. Love is not envious, resentful, or discontented. Love is not anxious to impress others, it is not conceited, it is not rude, it is not self-centered, it is not touchy, it does not bring up past offenses, it does not make a big deal out of others' misdeeds while still hating the sin, but loving the sinner. Love clings to what is good, true, lovely, pure, honest, praise-worthy, moral, upright and exemplary. Love bears up under any difficulty. Love is ready to believe the best in each person and situation. “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” (Rom. 12:9)

In order to really focus on loving others, we have to constantly be aware of how much Jesus loves us by how He laid His life down for us on the cross.  The cross is one of the world's most visibly recognized icons with its vertically pointing element representing this quintessential union between God and man. It is the intersecting horizontal plane symbolizing the day-to-day relationships among humans that especially benefit from the guidance found in the "Inspired Word of God."

St Paul described both concepts, “Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for you own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:2-4).

"You always hurt the ones you love." “Good relationships are hard to form, harder to maintain, and easy to destroy.” The timeliness of these old adages speaks volumes. It seems we reserve our unkindest words and do our most thoughtless deeds to those who mean the most to us. And because those close to us care more about what we say and think, those words and actions hurt more deeply. It's a double-whammy. Because the stakes are so high in the family, we must ensure that our relations not only stay away from the negative, but that they lead everyone to the positive.

The law of Dependence, Independence and Interdependence

The above variables are important to consider when we think of close interpersonal relationships. Two of the above are unhealthier (dependence and independence), while only interdependence is healthy. Certain things must be true if quality interpersonal relationships are to be experienced. 

1. Dependence is excessive leaning on another person. It implies demanding and taking. When needs aren’t met, we can become very angry if we are dependent. We may create more dependence in another person if we do more than listen to them. Giving lots of advice to a person with problems is really not helping. Rather, I make him dependent upon me.

2. Independence, on the other hand, implies distance, little effort to truly relate, and even aloofness. It says, “My problems are my own business.” “You deal with yours, I’ll deal with mine.” This is not consistent with good interpersonal relationships.

3. Interdependence is something quite different. Galatians 6:2-says “Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Romans 15:5-6  Amplified Bible says “Now may the God Who gives the power of patient endurance (steadfastness) and Who supplies encouragement, grant you to live in such mutual harmony and such full sympathy with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus,”

Jesus made it clear that if we are to live in peaceful harmony with one another, it requires us to change our heart attitude towards one another, not just our outward behavior. Jesus said that, “You have heard that it was said to our people long ago, ‘You must not murder anyone. Any person who commits murder will be judged.’ But I tell you, don’t be angry with anyone. If you are angry with others, you will be judged. And if you insult someone, you will be judged by the high court. And if you call someone a fool, you will be in danger of the fire of hell.”Mathew 5:21-22.

Nothing undermines individual worth or human relationships more than anger, hatred, contempt and lust. These attitudes destroy relationships. Jesus taught that we must not be controlled by any of these emotions as they are fuelled by pride, jealousy and revenge, and the result is the same as murder and deceitfulness. Anger, hatred, pride, contempt, lust and every other sinful emotion that breaks relationships can be changed and removed. We can be made complete in love, and relate as God relates.
Bible is full of specific instruction on how we should treat each other. Bible says “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20) If we are serious about the sanctity of life, we will heed Christ admonition that "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me" (Mathew 25:40). Christ gave the command “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”(John 13:34-35)

Family relationships consist of husband and wife, parents and children. How we relate within these relationships impacts directly on society and our eternal life. They also contribute to our personal well being. The Bible teaches that our earthly family relationships are to be based on the heavenly family relationship. That is, the relationship between God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. This heavenly relationship functions by love, trust and offering. As each member of the Godhead honours and gives worth to the other, nothing is done for self-glory or selfish intention. Each lives for the other. The relationship between them never ceases.

Leaders should Not violent, Not quarrelsome, Not quick-tempered, Not overbearing but Gentle

St Paul said in 1 Timothy 3:1-3 “Whoever aspires to be a leader desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsomenot a lover of money.  He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect” Titus 1:7 Paul said “Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain.”
It’s interesting that Paul uses four negative expressions to specify how we must live. Some things simply must not be present in life. Those four are counter-balanced by one positive characteristic.

First Paul says “Not violent,” (1 Timothy 3:3)

A violent person who is easily angered, such people tend to be assertive, manipulative, demanding, coercive and highly critical of others. They are quick to pick fights and slow to make up afterwards.
The term warns again those who use physical abuse, verbal abuse, mental abuse or emotional abuse in order to get their way. Paul’s command is simple: Don’t choose a person like that as a leader!

When conflict escalates to a certain level, people stop talking to each other. They quit, move out of the house, become silently sullen, or hide in their cubby hole in the office – they avoid each other. Have you noticed this tendency? Bible teaching about building relationships urges people to move from deadlock to dialogue. There is always the potential for more conflict, but good people with good motives need to talk. But, you head first for common ground, not fighting ground. Sometimes, to maintain the relationship, people must agree to disagree about a particular area of disagreement. Learn to work around things you cannot change.

Paul speaks of this principle of building relationships in his letter to the Philippians, “I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. Indeed true comrade, I ask you also to help these women” (Philippians 4:2, 3a; cf. Ephesians 4:15, 25). Paul was requesting a mediator to intervene in this troubled relationship, and to begin the process of building positive relationships. The process involves talking and dialogue.

Second “Not quarrelsome,” (1 Timothy 3:3)

some people just love to pick fights. They love to argue, love to "mix it up," love to trade insults and put other people down. Such a man is the master of the cutting remark, the king of the cute comeback. Proverbs 20:3 says, "It is to a man’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel." Do you know how to spot this person? In any group, this man (or woman) dominates the discussion by arguing every point into the ground. He can always find a thousand reasons why a new idea won’t work.
When challenged, he sends out the clear message: "My way or the highway."

By contrast, the godly people are peace-loving, willing to listen, not argumentative, not given to a fighting spirit. They are peace-makers, but not a peace-breaker.

If I constantly pass judgment on you, it will eventually descend into contempt – on both our parts. The opposite is to express respect, which is part of the process of building positive relationships. I think Paul had this concept in mind when he wrote, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice” (Ephesians 4:31). To me, Paul describes contempt. The opposite is to show respect. Perhaps that is why Paul instructs wives to, “Respect her husband” (Ephesians 5:33).

Third “Not quick-tempered” (Titus 1:7)

The word means "not hot-tempered," while the New Testament in Basic English says "not quickly moved to wrath." It describes a person who doesn’t blow his top whenever he gets angry. Proverbs 29:22 warns us about this tendency: "An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins." Let’s be clear on this point. There is such a thing as righteous anger (Ephesians 4:26), and there are times when leaders need to be angry. No one wants a leader who always smiles and never frowns. No one wants a leader who lives in Fantasyland and thinks everyday is Celebration. We need leaders who know how to get angry at the right time for the right reasons in the right way.  But Paul is warning us against putting a "hot-head" on the Board of Elders. Don’t do it. One hot-head can destroy the work of a dozen godly men. Leaders deal with people and their problems. And sometimes people

can be frustrating and the problems can be annoying. Godly leaders know how to remain calm under pressure and provocation.

Fourth is “Not overbearing (Titus 1:7)

The word literally means "not self-pleasing." It describes a person who is free from arrogant self-will, who does not always have to have his own way. Some people refuse to listen to others because their own concern is promoting their own agenda. They aren’t team players. Very well, then, don’t elect such a person to any position of leadership.

A major problem that retards positive relationships is criticism. Research indicates that in good relationships there is a five to one ratio in favor of positive encouragement over negative criticism. Paul emphasized the importance of this next building block: encourage, don’t criticize, condemn, or complain. He wrote, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29; cf. Colossians 4:5, 6).
Make people feel important. Use their name, be friendly, and smile. Learn to listen and understand their interests and point of view. Talk about what interests them. This will take you far in building positive relationships.

The Bible teaching about building relationships emphasizes prayer. Paul sets the example, “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment” (Philippians 1:9). Jesus said to, “Pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

Persevering prayer is powerful, and should take the place of getting even with those we think have wronged us (Romans 12:14; cf. verses 9-21).

The positive word Paul used “Be Gentle” (1 Timothy 3:3)

The scholars tell us that this word is difficult to translate because it contains so many delicate nuances. It has the idea of patience, forbearance, consideration and personal kindness. It describes a person who considers the whole picture before acting. A gentle leader protects and does not humiliate. He "guards each man’s dignity and saves each man’s pride." In making a decision he judges both the letter and the spirit of the law. He is willing to lose even when he is right. He is willing to yield, willing to forgive, willing to overlook. We know it when you see it because the person who has it always makes you feel better when you are around them.

In Matthew 11:29 Jesus said “for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
Jesus says “learn from Me” precisely insofar as He is gentle and humble.  The Lord is almighty, all-knowing, omnipresent, eternal, etc.  But He never said, “Learn from Me, for I am almighty.”  What He wants us to learn is gentleness and humility.

C.S. Lewis gives a great definition of humility,
“Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.”
Jesus says, I am gentle and humble. Learn from Me.
Learn to trust what God does.
Learn to follow what God says.
Learn to notice what God sees.
Learn to love what God loves.
It’s doubly important for leaders to have this quality because they lead the sheep. They don’t drive them, beat them or harass them. Gentleness is important because sheep can be exasperating at times! Gentle is the Greek word “praos,” closely related to the word translated “meek” in the Sermon on the Mount. This idea of gentleness or meekness has to do with our attitude towards God. It means we accept what God does without resisting. We trust that God is good. We rely on God’s strength and not our own.

The following Scriptures explain clearly what God expects from us in this regard.

1 John 4:7 -Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.

We are called to love God and to love each other. The Bible provides clear instructions on how to love and serve our neighbors. Here is a list of Bible verse about supporting each other.
1 John 3:16-18 says “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. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you- John 15:12- 
These things I command you, so that you will love one another. - John 15:17 -
Love one another' - John 13:34, 35
 Wash one another’s feet—John 13:14.
'Be devoted to one another' - Romans 12:10
'Live in Harmony with one another' - Romans 12:16, 1 Peter 3:8
'Accept one another' - Romans 15:7
'Instruct one another' - Romans 15:14
'Agree with one another' - 1 Corinthians 1:10
'Greet one another    - 2 Corinthians 13:12
'Serve one another in love' - Galatians 5:13
'Bearing with one another in love' - Ephesians 4:2
'Be kind and compassionate to one another' - Ephesians 4:32
'Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs' - Ephesians 5:19
'Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ' - Ephesians 5:21
'Admonish one another' - Colossians 3:16
'Encourage one another' - 1 Thessalonians 5:11, Hebrews 3:13, Hebrews 10:25
'Spur one another on toward love and good deeds' - Hebrews 10:24
'Do not slander one another' - James 4:11
'Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling' - 1 Peter 4:9
'Love one another deeply' - 1 Peter 1:22
'Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another' - 1 Peter 5:5
'Have fellowship with one another' - 1 John 1:7

Each of the above verses shows us how we should live life together in the Covenant Community of the Family: Jesus said, 'Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect'. The love of God is perfect. It is complete and it lacks nothing. Our failing love causes failure in our interpersonal relationships. The good news is that we can be changed. We can live and relate with God's perfect love. God is able to work in our lives and recover what was broken, and join us according to His purpose and will. But it will take our willingness to be restored, to face up to and work through every broken relationship, being fully accountable for our responses. The love of God sent Christ into the world. He brought the love of the Heavenly Father with Him. He demonstrated it toward us in that while we were enemies and sinners, Christ died for us. Jesus rose from the dead and sent the Holy Spirit. All who will believe and obey will receive the Holy Spirit. Through the Holy Spirit, the love of God is poured out into our lives. It is poured out into our soul and spirit so that we can love as He loved. We can be made complete in love, enabling us to live as Jesus asked us to live in our interpersonal relationships, even toward those who are against us.