HOPE - “Relationships”
We are in the second week of our series on "Hope" & "The Unexpected Power of Love." Today we turn to "Relationships." It turns out and it shouldn't surprise us that it is easy to love when we feel loved in the first place. The problem, is not understanding this, but with who goes first. The challenge and tension of relationships lies here. Last week we looked at Ephesians 3:19 which says, "May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God." God's love fills us in a way nothing else can. We apply all this to our relationships because our relationship with God is closely connected to our relationship with others. We will be looking at three practices of lasting relationships. We will do this in the way of an overview with the thought that maybe a time will come when we can do so in more detail.
1 - Stand Alone with Confidence
We begin with those who are not yet in a relationship. This material is particularly for those who are at that critical juncture where they anticipate beginning a relationship of love.
Genesis 2:18 says, "Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.”
God created us for relationships, to live in community with others. This does not mean that all are called to marriage.
Genesis 2:24 says, "This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one."
There is a beauty and strength in marriage. There is tension that exists when one is not in a relationship. When the desire to get into a relationship is allowed to be the controlling factor, you can end up in a place you shouldn't be.
2 Corinthians 6:14 says, "Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness?"
As a pastor I hear the rationalizations. The gals say, "but he is a nice guy and he has a job." The guys say, "but she's pretty .... she's pretty .... she's pretty .... she's pretty .... she's pretty." If you at your core have decided to follow Christ and he's your life and then you become linked with an unbeliever, you will experience our next verse.
Amos 3:3 says, "Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?"
How can you go forward?
Proverbs 15:17 says, "A bowl of vegetables with someone you love is better than steak with someone you hate."
Sorry, all you vegetarians, it's just what it says. It contrasts the difference between being with someone you love and someone who drives you crazy. A right relationship is better than a right now relationship. This leads us to our next passage which reminds us we have resourcs available to us for becoming more aligned with the desires God has for our relationships.
2 Timothy 1:7 says, "For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline."
Because of what Christ has done, we are released from fear and timidity and given the power, love, and self-discipline we need for right relationships.
2 Timothy 1:9 says, "It is God who saved us and chose us to live a holy life. He did this not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan long before the world began - to show his love and kindness to us through Christ Jesus." NLT ‘96
God's love in my life means that if God calls me to it, I can stand alone with confidence and not in fear and timidity. I can wait with confidence for God's best. Ever see those late night TV commercials when they say the first 25 callers only will get the special deal being offered. They play on our insecurity. If we don't act now, we will miss the offer. The insecure, because of fear and timidity, always rush to say, "yes." When we are secure in God's love, we don't jump into relationships but say, "no," while we wait to say, "yes," to God's best later on.
2 - Practice Mutual Yielding
We move now to an very important understanding for relationships that we will call the practice of mutual relationships.
Ephesians 5:21 says, "And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ."
This verse captures this understanding and it is some of the best advice possible for relationships. We find the details of the practice of mutual yielding in the next passage.
Ephesians 5:22, 25 says, "For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 25For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her."
Problems come when people define love as emotion. Love is not meant to be an emotion but love is submission. Marriage can be like the old game of chicken played between two cars coming fast toward a collision course with each other. In our marriages sometimes it's like we are trying to see who has the best airbag. Mutual yielding is about being the first to say sorry. Mutual yielding is about being soft when things get tough for our spouse. Mutual yielding is about taking care of the other when they are in a bad spot. Mutual yielding is about not demanding but sacrificing.
When we were driving home from the hospital with our firstborn, I voluntarily drove slow. At the Bourne rotary I yielded for the first time ever. Why all this? Because we had "precious cargo" on board. We need to view our spouse like we view precious cargo that needs to be handled with care. Keeping this is mind is the key to practicing mutual yielding. Yielding that is one-sided is abusive. Men may feel that particpating in mutual yielding is emasculating and women my feel that it devalues them. Mutual yielding is all about valuing your partner. Mutual yielding raises the value of the other. And all of this happens because we have experienced God's love. The previous passage said that Christ loved the church and gave up his life for her. This captures what we are talking about so very well. Some of you are wishing you had understood mutual yielding many years ago. You may think its just too late; I don't feel any love anymore; I am locked into and trapped in a relationship gone wrong; I am destined to a life of misery.
3 - Act Before You Feel
The practice of mutual yielding allows us to act before we feel.
Luke 6:27-28 says, “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you.28 Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you."
Some of you fight and so the designation of "enemies" is somewhat apt. When we are in conflict we must check our hearts and our actions. Love from the heart leads to the actions of "doing good," blessing," and "praying" for the other person. These three things are what love looks like and this kind of love finds its roots in what Christ has done for you. But perhaps thinking about trying to act in these ways without feeling love seems fake and creates tension in you.
Luke 6:32, 36 says, “If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! 36 You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate."
It seems that we have decided that authenticity means to act out what we feel in the moment. This is killing us. Sometimes the way we feel is wrong. Sometimes it is selfish. Sometimes it is right but not gracious. Feelings have become our master. The traditional marriage vows were a promise to love, honor, cherish and protect, forsake all others and hold only to your spouse forevermore. Nowwhere in them does say, "if I feel like it." It is not "love and cherish" as long as you do it first.
Love allows us to act before we feel and in the absence of feelings live out our commitment. It redefines love. As we live out our love as a vow and not feelings our relationship grows. Remember, it is all rooted in God's love which allows us to do good, bless, and pray for those with whom we have close relationships.
Let's finish by taking another person and blessing them. I invite you to bless them and pray for them now. Start with the first piece: speak to God in prayer about what is good, wonderful, and praiseworthy of this person. Then pray for God to bless them. For the non-married pray for God's blessing on that future person he may bring your way.
Lord, for those in the midst of difficulties, shepherd them through them. For spouses locked in battle and their responses to each other have been reactions, let them so experience your love that they find the love for each other that has been absent. Lord, we are reminded that the bad shows up most painfully with those we are closeest to. We pray that our spouses will be filled with a sense of significance, value, and security. Lord, for those who are waiting for that special relationship, help them to say, "no," to anything less and wait to say, "yes," to your best. Thank you for the unexpected power of your love in relationships. Amen!
Remember, in all we are called to from all the verses we covered today, we must come back and start with God's love. He loved us first. We don't have to make it up - it comes from him.
Posted on Sun, April 19, 2015
by Alan Porter