Let us begin by defining some English words.
Relation, relative: this refers to a person who is connected to you. This would refer to your brother or sister, son or daughter, parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins. You cannot choose your relatives.
Relationships: this refers to how you get on with other people; it may include your relatives, but it usually means how we interact with people who are not our relatives.
A relationship refers to how you interact with other people, that is, how you affect them and how they affect you. You have a relationship with your wife or husband; you have a relationship with your friends; you have a relationship with your boss at work; you have a relationship with the people around you, the person you meet on the train or bus, or even in the street. It even covers the relationship you have with God and His Son, Jesus.
How are your relationships? What does the Bible say about relationships? How is your relationship with God?
Every person is unique, that is, no one is exactly like another. Even the pattern on our fingers is different for everyone on the planet. Everyone also has a unique temperament. What is temperament? The word tells everyone how we are; how we think; how we react.
There are people with calm temperaments: such people are not easily upset, not easily angry. They are always happy, always calm. When something goes wrong, calm people say, “Oh well, that’s a pity, but we’ll just keep going.” In English, we say that “they let trouble wash over them.”
Then there are people with stormy temperaments: such people get angry and upset very easily. They get upset when another driver cuts in front of them; they get angry when someone else lets them down. We all know such people and we are careful not to upset the person because we know the trouble it will cause!
Most people are somewhere in between; they are usually quite calm and positive, but will sometimes get upset and angry. Jesus Christ was like this; most times he was calm, but on a couple of occasions, he became very upset when he saw people doing the wrong things for his Father (see Mark 3:5). The anger that Jesus showed was never anger for himself; it was anger for God. So often, our anger is for ourselves, not others. And this is where anger gets us into trouble. See Ephesians 4:26.
Paul the Apostle wrote many letters to the early Christians. In one, he wrote
“If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” Romans 12:18
If we want to follow Jesus, then we must have good relationships with everyone. Even if some people do not want a good relationship, we must work at our side of the relationship. This means that the only person I can change is myself.
Let’s look at relationships.
How are your relationships with your family? We have said that you cannot choose your relatives, and there are always members of one’s family who are difficult to get on with! But the letters of Paul remind us that if we cannot live at peace in our own families, how can we be at peace with others? He said that how can a person work in the church if he cannot be at peace in his home? Disputes and arguments between children and parents are too common in the world; living in peace is a big challenge to all of us. But we must work at that peace if we are to be followers of Jesus. The Apostle John gives us all a challenge in 1 John 4:20.
Friends are important to all of us. Without friends, life becomes very lonely. But as we all know, there are good friends and bad friends. Some will help us to improve; others only want friendship for what they can get out of it (Proverbs 14:20, 19:4). Are you a greedy friend? Are you a friend only when things are going well, but stay away when friends are in trouble? The Bible has many references to the importance of good friends. The book of Proverbs has several verses: Proverbs 18:24, 17:17, 22:24
The relationship between husband and wife is one that affects many of us, whether we are married or we are children of a marriage. God intended men and women to commit their lives to each other to the exclusion of all others. This is what marriage means: total commitment to another, just as the Christian must make a commitment to Jesus Christ.
Jesus explained that marriage is a life-long commitment made before God: Mark 10:8-9. In God’s design, two people join together as one spiritually, emotionally and physically until parted by the death of one. Therefore, marriage should never be made lightly; a marriage cannot be easily broken before God. Those who are married know that the life of a husband or wife is one of self-sacrifice to the other, always seeking the best for the other, and working together to solve the many problems that will arise.
When the Bible uses the word neighbour, it means more than just the person living in the next unit or house. It refers to everyone whom we may not know as friends, but whom we come in contact with. How do you treat people like waiters, shop assistants, tradesmen, etc? We need to be kind, friendly, willing to talk to them as equals and tell them about the Gospel of Jesus if we can. We have all seen people on the train who simply push everyone out of the way; who grab a seat and will not give it up for anyone! The followers of Jesus must not be like that. They must be a good example to everyone. They must be kind, polite, happy and motivated to tell all the Good News about Jesus. Every human being is a child of God. We must bring out that child of God if possible, firstly in ourselves, then in others.
Relationships with strangers and foreigners can be difficult for the Christian; sometimes the country we live in compels us to be enemies of others; yet the love of God covers all human beings wherever they live. If we are true followers of Jesus, then we must do the same. We feel love and concern for people everywhere, and the Christian helps them in every way he/she can. The Christian tries to avoid all conflicts between nations, knowing that he/she is waiting for the perfect Kingdom of God, when nationality will not matter anymore. See Galatians 3:26.
The sacrifice of Jesus Christ was not just for the Jews; it was for everyone. So we all need to learn and know about Jesus and his message. Our love for our fellow man must be based on the love we have received from God.
God and Jesus
As we saw, the Apostle John challenges us that if we cannot love our brother, how can we love God? The answer is that by loving our fellow men and women, we are showing that we love God. If we motivate people to improve, motivate people to find Jesus, then we are showing our love for God.
Let us never forget how much God loves us; that He sent His Son Jesus to take away our sins and disobedience so that we, in return, love others.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”
John 3:16, 17