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2/22/2017 Message: Making Relationships Work

by jpack, February 22, 2017

It’s no mystery that if you go to church the pastor will tell you that the secret to lasting relationships with God.  But, did you know that there is a God-purpose to your relationship just as there is a God-purpose to your life?  The Bible is a gigantic relationship book between God and man, but it also talks about relationships between people.  Applying a sense of purpose to our relationships not only gives our relationships meaning, but also ensures they can whether change and trials.

Perfect Relationships

Perfect began and ended in the Garden of Eden.  Once mankind introduce sin into the relationship between God and creation, things changed.  That said, we get a brief glimpse of relationships between people in front of the backdrop of perfect in Genesis 2.

 Adonai, God, said, “It isn’t good that the person should be alone. I will make for him a companion suitable for helping him.”So from the ground Adonai, God, formed every wild animal and every bird that flies in the air, and he brought them to the person to see what he would call them. Whatever the person would call each living creature, that was to be its name. So the person gave names to all the livestock, to the birds in the air and to every wild animal. But for Adam there was not found a companion suitable for helping him.

Then God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the person; and while he was sleeping, he took one of his ribs and closed up the place from which he took it with flesh. The rib which Adonai, God, had taken from the person, he made a woman-person; and he brought her to the man-person. The man-person said, “At last! This is bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh. She is to be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” This is why a man is to leave his father and mother and stick with his wife, and they are to be one flesh. (Genesis 2:18-25, CJB)

What we find in this initial relationship between man and woman is a picture of love founded in purpose.  God’s purpose for man was to care after creation.  God’s purpose in the relationship between man and woman was the assist in serving God.  This isn’t a minor point or game of semantics.  God’s decision that men and women should be in relationships with each other only came after seeing that Adam needed help achieving his purpose in life.  Note that personalities didn’t play into the equation and compatible interests didn’t fit into the equation.  The purpose… the only purpose… in a relationship founded on God is to help both partners serve the calling God has made for them.

Some of you may be thinking, “Woah, Joseph, some of that sounds a little sterile. I like some romance in my life!”  I completely agree with the need for romance.  When a holiday comes up where I can heap love onto Meredith, I really get into it.  Just this last month I decorated our living room with 50 balloons and 200 feet of party streamers.  She hated it.  She also kind of loved it.  When I look at my relationship with Meredith, it isn’t perfect, but we have always tried to keep our eye affixed on God’s purpose for both of us.  When we show love and affection to each other, it helps build the bonds we need to encourage and motivate each other as we participate in our respective ministries.  In this way, the love and romance of Hollywood can exist inside of a Godly relationship founded on God.  The question for the loving couple is whether their relationship is founded on pure emotion, pleasure, practicality, or if there is a lasting foundation of God’s purpose giving the relationship itself lasting purpose.

Relationships Without Purpose

Another subject that comes up frequently in youth ministry is what to do with significant others who aren’t Christian.  This is a rough subject because it cuts many teens to the core and really starts challenging how important their faith is.

In 2 Corinthian, Paul uses the metaphor of a yoke to describe relationships that don’t really serve a Godly purpose.

Do not yoke yourselves together in a team with unbelievers. For how can righteousness and lawlessness be partners? What fellowship does light have with darkness? What harmony can there be between the Messiah and Satan? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement can there be between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God — as God said,

“I will house myself in them, . . .and I will walk among you. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” (2 Corinthians 6:14-16, CJB)

What is interesting about this metaphor, especially after the discussion of relationships serving a God-purpose, is that the yoke is a farming instrument used to help oxen plow fields.  It is an instrument of labor.  Paul uses this instrument of labor to explain that when we are unevenly yoked, there are all kinds of risks we introduce into the relationship.

Now, Paul uses some words we typically associate with the Bible but not so much relationships.  Then again, let’s take a closer look…

  • “What fellowship does light have with darkness?” – Think about the quality and subject of your conversations with someone who does not yet know Christ.  When they are in crisis, what light do they have to fall on?  When they are in times of victory, it is a wonderful feeling, but do they have the same feeling of thanks that you share?  When you are yoked with someone who does not know Christ, you are constantly in a battle against a much darker perspective of the world.  Even if you are in a relationship with someone who worships another god, how can someone truly experience light from something that isn’t there?  If we are truly in the light, we will find it very difficult to be yoked with someone in the dark.
  • “What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?” – Tons of issues exist between the simple logistics between a believer and unbeliever.  Ideas of love, marriage, how to raise children.  Even things as simple as to where to enjoy dates and how far to go physically.  All of these things will greatly differ between a Godly relationship and one based on things of the world.  Those differences will be a constant source of arguments, hurt feelings, and disrespect between couples.
  • “What agreement can there be between the temple of God and idols?” – Recall the fact that we, our minds, hearts, and bodies, are temples of God.  When we form these tight bonds between believers and non-believers, there is always a risk of other idols competing for our bodily temples.  Those idols may be non-Christian behaviors and lifestyles, they may be idols of sexual immorality, they may be idols of social acceptance and what we feel others expect for us within context of a relationship.  All of these things that threaten our minds, hearts, and bodies are idols that can corrupt the temple God has created in us.

What If I’m Not Dating? This Doesn’t Apply To Me.

It’s easy to decide that these relationship talks don’t apply if you aren’t in a committed relationship.  Whether you are “just casually dating” or only have tight relationships with friends, these warnings still apply.  Christ spent his time almost exclusively with the rejects and sinners of his day, so I don’t want anyone to get the idea that the Bible says not to associate with people who aren’t Christians.  In fact, it says quite the opposite!  Lessons on relationships and ‘being unevenly yoked’ are unique to those relationships we find in people that impact our minds and our very lives.  Any time we form tight bonds with someone who is not a Christian, we have to be cautious to stand our ground and acknowledge that the road ahead is going to be tough, possibly even painful.

Fortunately, God is our source of purpose and our source of strength.  What this means is that if we find ourselves in the midst of an unevenly yoked relationship, God can give us strength to either reach the individual we have a close friendship or relationship with or to give us the wisdom to know when it is time to move on.  Many individuals both within and without the church make relationships between believers and non-believers work, but in order for them to work, we acknowledge that we are introducing dangers that Satan can use to tear us away from our faith.  In those relationships we have to listen to God for his guidance and rely on his Will for strength.

Looking for a Lasting Relationship

Unfortunately, the Bible isn’t a straight-up “How To” of dating and relationships.  It has a lot of information about how to live a Godly life, but many teens looking for guidance in the scriptures in their dating life are left disappointed.  Why?  Well, our culture has created something out of dating that really is purely human.  The entire concept of going on several dates, purchasing a ring, and kneeling on one knee is a man-made construct that all of us have just come to accept.

Look, I did it, too.  I’m not exempt.

When we hit things in our lives for where there exists no direct instruction manual, we have to assess what we do know and go from there.

  • We DO know that God wants a relationship with each one of us.
  • We DO know that God has a purpose for our lives.
  • We DO know that without God’s purpose, any earthly thing we work towards or gain is meaningless.
  • We DO know that God placed Eve in Adam’s life to assist him in his God-given purpose
  • We DO know that the relationship that Adam and Eve shared was the only relationship in the history of mankind to exist without sin or imperfection.

What this tells me is that when I look for that special someone in my life, I am looking for someone who loves God, wants to assist me in the purpose God has for me, and wants me to help them in the purpose God has for them.  If your relationships possess those three things, you’ll really have something special founded on something that will never fail.

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