A Biblical view of Relationships
By Katherine Allen
The notes below are from a recent Students & Twenties evening, looking at Biblical relationships. To listen to the talk by Pete & Laura Twemlow click here (the talk starts at 8:00).
The Bible has a lot to say about relationships. This makes sense, as they are God-designed and a central part of what it is to be human, meeting mankind’s most basic need. Biblical teaching on relationships covers Christian friendships, marriage and, by extension, dating as preparation for eventual marriage, which makes it relevant for everyone regardless of marital status or stage in life.
“The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
Culture also has much to say on the subject, but even though this can be helpful it can give a warped view of healthy relationships through social norms, media and the arts such as in film and music. It is important to recognise that while these things change over time and the goalposts for what is acceptable in society are continually moving, the Bible remains firm on its teaching throughout the ages and stays relevant in the present day.
Relationships are also one of the main ways in which we can become more like Jesus, loving our friends and spouses unconditionally and being less self-centred and more ‘others-focused’. This post will cover two basic principles and then two scenarios that we are all likely to experience in our relationships with others.
WORK on relationships
It takes effort to build solid, God-centred relationships. Marriage is an example of a commitment to love another person, a covenant before God. (Other definitions of covenant are formal agreement or contract, to give an idea of what’s involved when you decide to marry someone!) This is radical in today’s self-focused culture where marriage is all too often seen as finding your soulmate or that person who “completes you”, or friendship as an opportunity to gain something for yourself. Instead Philippians 2:3-4 tells us to value others above ourselves, “not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others”.
Practical advice the Bible offers to help us Work in relationships include being united in Christ (Ephesians 4:3-4), being intentional in making time to cultivate relationships (Proverbs 18:24), being forgiving and quick to show grace (Colossians 3:13), and being communicative and willing to listen (James 1:19).
WALK through relationships
The primary factor in Christian relationships is encouraging one another in our shared faith, so it’s good to think about where we are headed in our walk with God – either as friends or a married couple – and how we can help each other on the journey. This is not to say we can’t enjoy fulfilling relationships with non-Christians, but fellowship between believers has an added spiritual dimension that is impossible with those who do not share the same faith. Tim Keller says this in his book The Meaning of Marriage: “Spiritual friendship is the greatest journey of all, because the horizon is so high and far, yet sure – it is nothing less than ‘the day of Jesus Christ’ and what we will be like when we finally see him face-to-face.”
Examples of purpose the Bible shows to help us Walk through relationships include mission for God (Acts 13:1-3), witness to unbelievers (John 17:23), and encouraging each other (Romans 1:12).
WEEP in relationships
We need to be prepared for difficulties that will arise in our personal lives and those of others, and investing wisely earlier on in relationships will help us during darker times. Everyone has that initial ‘honeymoon period’, whether in friendships or dating/marriage, but this won’t always last! Being open and vulnerable will allow others to draw close to us when we are suffering, and vice versa, building up a level of trust that only strengthens friendships and marriages.
Practical advice the Bible offers to help us Weep in relationships include simply being there for those suffering like Job’s friends were (at least initially!), being open and accountable (James 5:16), and being compassionate and willing to help those in need, even when it inconveniences us (Galatians 6:2).
WHIMSY in relationships
God is good, so because He created relationships it follows logically that we are meant to enjoy them! The Bible is full of instances where people feasted, threw parties and laughed together. This also gives us a glimpse of what the new heavens & earth will be like, where there is no sorrow any more (Revelation 21:4).
As strange as it sounds, we need to make the effort to have fun in our relationships. Why not invite friends you haven’t seen in a while to dinner, or escape the city on a day trip to the seaside, or organise a social with colleagues outside of work? These are important things to do in maintaining authentic relationships that aren’t boring, but which also glorify God who Himself invented the very concept of fun.
Check out Rick Warren’s powerful poem between 38:36 and 40:40:
Only when we are satisfied in Christ can we be unselfish in relationships. We will be let down by people, but Jesus will never let us down; we should be rooted in our identity in Christ and see him as the perfect example of a loving friend in order to cultivate better relationships with those God has placed in our lives.
1 John 4:7-10
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”