Pastor Matt once said something in passing that grabbed my attention and has stayed with me for a long time: he said that all of God’s blessings and acts of discipline in the Scriptures are tied into our relationships—either with our relationship with Him or our relationships with others.
As I’ve searched the Scriptures, I haven’t found any exception to this principle. In fact, it seems to me, there’s very little in the Bible we can understand apart from the context of our relationship with Jesus and others. For instance, take the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22) – do any of these things have any meaning at all outside the context of our relationships?
Or, consider 1 Corinthians 13. This famous chapter is all about the preeminence of love–again, (as obvious as it sounds), something that is meaningful only when it becomes the driving engine of our relationships, while its absence results in nothing but noise.
Or, what did Jesus say was the greatest commandment? “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” – Luke 10:27
Wow! There it is again!
Holiness. Prayer. Obedience. Service. Evangelism. Mediation. Spiritual Gifts. Teaching. Fellowship. Our effectiveness in all of these things utterly depends upon the health of our relationships.
So what do we do if our relationships are in trouble?
A good first step is to look at the Apostle Paul’s admonition in Romans 12:18: “As far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.”
Here are some practical questions to ask ourselves along these lines:
Do I care about what is important to other people, and do my words and actions reflect that concern? Am I consistently putting the interests of others on the same plane of consideration as my own? Am I appropriately vulnerable with trustworthy people? Do I quickly acknowledge the losses (big and small) my sins and oversights cause in the lives of others? If there is tension in my relationships, do I initiate and seek resolution?
Of course, not all of our relationships are going to be characterized by warm feelings and deep affection. If we’re following Christ, some people are going to be downright hostile toward us–Jesus couldn’t have been clearer about this (see John 15:18-25).
What matters, especially in these tension-filled relationships, is to keep following Paul’s admonition: “As far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” You have no control over the degree to which others take this directive seriously.
Try taking a look at your spiritual health in the context of your relationships–you may find a lot of things that once seemed mysterious suddenly make sense.