Life is relationship. God designed it that way.

Adam, the first man, is the only person who had the opportunity to live without human fellowship. The Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone.” So he created a helper for him (see Genesis 2:18).

The heart longs for relationship.

Warren Buffet, one of the richest men in the world, in his mid seventies said, “When you get to be my age, you’ll measure your success in life by how many of the people you want to have love you actually do love you. That’s the ultimate test of how you’ve lived your life” (“10 Ways to Get Rich,” Parade September 7, 2008).

There are no perfect relationships because we’re all flawed. But our relationships can be very, very good when we understand love isn’t a feeling. It’s a decision, an action, a commitment.

Homes and lives disintegrate every day because people no longer feel in love and abandon the relationship that once brought joy.

First Corinthians 13 gives characteristics of true love: patient; kind; never jealous, envious, boastful, proud, haughty, selfish, or rude; doesn’t demand its own way; isn’t irritable or touchy; doesn’t hold grudges; hardly notices when others do it wrong; never glad about injustice; rejoices when truth wins out; loyal no matter the cost; always believes in the one loved, expects the best, and stands its ground in defending the one loved; goes on forever.

The chapter concludes, “And now theses three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Love is a choice.

Truths I’ve learned about living in relationship:

  • One person in the relationship, willing to obey God, can by his grace change the relationship.
  • The relationship is more important than the last word.
  • I cannot say anything I choose and expect the relationship to endure.
  • People deserve to be treated with dignity. 
  • Loving most is a Christ-like thing…he laid down His life.
  • The quality of a relationship is determined by one radical decision: I will obey God.

Are you in a difficult relationship? Here’s good news! “When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him” (Proverbs 16:7 NIV).

When pleasing the Lord has priority, improving the relationship becomes his responsibility.

To build healthy relationships, we must mind our manners, remembering to:

Be kind.

Avoid abusive conduct—verbally, physically, emotionally.

Choose wholesome communication (no sarcasm, criticism, angry tone, silent treatment).

Forgive (not carrying grudges/pouting).

Put our best foot forward.

Serve rather than expecting to be served.

Bring out the best in the other person.

Show respect.

Extend the gift of unconditional acceptance.

Make a sincere effort to understand.

Be patient, not jumping to conclusions.

Practice self-control.

Be honest.

Be unselfish, putting the other’s needs first.

Try to out-give each other.

Go the extra mile (make it the rule, not the exception).

Practice the golden rule (Matthew 7:12 doing to others what we would have them do to us).

Esteem others better than self.

Deal with bitterness before it grows.

Practice persistent, persevering, covering love.

Anyone willing to invest in the hard work of building and maintaining relationships can start by applying these commands in Scripture.

Rid yourself of anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy communication, and lying; clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, love, peace, and gratitude (see Colossians 3:1-17 NIV).

As we choose our clothing each day, we can choose to put on these qualities that bring peace to our relationships.

Bringing these qualities to a relationship, instead of obsessing about what someone else is not bringing, gives the Lord great opportunity to work. The One Who designed relationships wants ours to flourish, bathed in his amazing love.

Be the kind of person you want your spouse or friend to be. We cannot change anyone else. But God has that power…and he just might use our sacrificial love to do it.

If the Lord has brought healing to a difficult relationship in your life, please comment. And share this article with your friends!

© Dianne Barker

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