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5 Reasons to Be Intentional About Relationships

WHY_BOTHER_PPT_04-RelationshipsBridge Church in Madisonville is in the midst of a sermon series called Why Bother? We’re looking at things culture is pressing us to devalue but God counts as of great value. One thing thats valued less & less is relationships. We don’t build front porches onto our homes much anymore. Instead we build “privacy fences” in the backyard. Loneliness plagues neighborhoods & people who have hundreds if not thousands of Facebook friends. And relationships can be hard & messy, unlike the video game that we can hit restart on, or the relational lives of television characters that we live vicariously through in our imagination. It may not be lack of desire, but lack of intentionality. So Why Bother with Relationships? Why do we need greater intentionality? Why should we push through difficulty to build deep relationships with others?

1. God’s primary purpose was & is to RESTORE RELATIONSHIPS. Isaiah 59:2 reminds us that sins separates humanity from God & that separation extends to our earthy relationships (James 4:1). What is God doing in the world? Restoring Relationships (see 2 Corinthians 5:18-19). As we relate with God, his desire for relationship will spread to us & through us to others.

2. Jesus bothered with RELATIONSHIPS. In the gospels, we see Jesus spending time with a small group of 12 followers who he called friends (John 15:14-15). Then he had an inner circle of three that he shared an even greater depth of relationship (Matthew 17:1). We also see Jesus initiating relationships with difficult people like a crooked tax collector named Zacheus, a promiscuous Samaritan Women at a well, & a Jewish religious leader named Nicodemus. Jesus demonstrated intentionality in relationships & used relationships as the primary means for spreading the gospel.

I like Jon Acuff’s take on Jesus’ minsitry:

What an ineffective communicator Jesus was by our modern standards of platform building. He could have spoken to hilltops of thousands of people each night, but instead he wasted time at dinner with a handful of tax collectors and strangers. Want to change the world? It’s easy. Have a long, time-wasting, friendship-generating dinner with someone.

3. Jesus commanded us to bother with RELATIONSHIPS. Jesus not only set the example of intentional relationships, he took this to “COMMAND FROM GOD” status in John 13:34-35, then in John 15:12 & John 15:17. Also, in stories like the Good Samaritan, where Jesus presses his people to put the needs of others ahead of themselves, even despite busy schedules & cultural differences (Luke 10:25-37). And he adds in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:41-48) that we are to love even the most unlovable, like Roman soldiers that make unjust demands, & avowed enemies. With Jesus, intentional relationships are not an option for His followers.

4. You can’t possibly obey the Bible without building relationships. People often say in our culture, “I don’t have to go to church, to be a Christian.” That’s true, but New Testament Christianity would tach us that you must be in relationships with other believers to be an OBEDIENT Christian. Depending on what Bible translations you use, there are 40-50 verses that you can’t possibly obey outside of relationships. We call them the One Another’s. A few of my fav’s:

  • “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love…” (Romans 12:10)
  • “…Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12:10)
  • “…Serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13)
  • “…Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.” (Colossians 3:13)
  • “…Build each other up…” (I Thessalonians 5:11)
  • “…Encourage one another.” (Hebrews 10:25)
  • “…Do not slander one another.” (James 4:11)
  • “Don’t grumble against each other…” (James 5:9)
  • “…Pray for each other.” (James 5:16)

Here’s a great Infographic with all of them listed.

5. RELATIONSHIPS bring growth & change into our lives. Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” That’s a great image of the importance of friendships. I have a tool in my garage to sharpen my lawn mower blades. it’s called a Grinder. And when sharpening blades, it gets messy. Sparks fly. The noise is annoying. But the end product is a sharper tool & a cleaner cut. Without relationships, we run the risk of remaining dull & less effective as followers of Christ. So God compells us to sharpen one another. To push through the sparks that may fly as we grow & change through relationships.

Today there’s a great mission field to be had for the Christian that will be intentional about Relationships. We have so many lonely people. In our neighborhoods are people with few relationships. People are searching for answers in impersonal ways, but are open to a friend that will help them. Be intentional. Show up. Engage. Love. Serve. And see how God uses you.

The Importance of Sharing Your Life With Others

Captured these powerful images on the importance of Small Groups earlier this year at FBC Orlando. So many in our generation isolate ourselves & find ourselves on our own when life happens. And it will happen, i.e marital problems, financial problems, transitions, parenting issues, seasons of doubt & discouragement, etc. Who do you share life with when you have questions? when you need a hand? When you’re expecting change? Find a church, get connected with others. Share your life. You need them AND they need you!

Dealing w/Difficult People

Seems like I’m talking about this more and more lately with people of my generation or younger. Maybe it’s b/c we played inside looking at a screen more than outside resolving conflict on the sandlot. Or maybe it’s b/c the boomer generation tended to sweep things under the rug, so we never saw conflict resolution handled well. Or maybe it’s b/c we’re the sitcom generation and everything supposed to work itself out in 30 minutes or less and if it doesn’t we’re not sure what to do. Or maybe it’s b/c we’re the “pretense” generation, obsessed with everyone liking our pages, our ideas, and our way of life and we have trouble when they don’t. Whatever the case, relationships can be difficult. It helps me to remember a couple of things:

  1. To someone I am a difficult person. Why? It may be that I’m misunderstood or I’m having a bad day or my personality rubs you the wrong way. But we tend to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt, credit for our intensions, and many chances. Do we do that for others? Remember, the merciful will be shown mercy (Matthew 5:7; James 2:13).  I love this scene from the movie Fireproof which reminds us that our relationship with others tends to show us a pic of our relationship with God. The cross was necessary b/c we were enemies of and unable to relate to God. He had mercy, grace, and He made a way. So should we.
  2. Hurting People, Hurt People, and are more easily Hurt by People. When we’re hard to live with, it’s usually something deeper. We’re living out of our pain. (James 4:1-3). Don’t fight back at first instinct. Pray for the person, look for opportunities to address the why behind their issues. Don’t pile on the pain for you or them. And when someone irks you or hurts you, don’t point a finger automatically. Ask, “Is there something in me that’s making this appear worse in my eyes than it really is?”

Here’s a few of my favorite books that help us think through relationships, especially difficult ones:

Worth Reading: Safe People

They are known for their Boundaries books, but a lesser known book has helped me in recognizing relationships that could have a negative impact on my life. Safe People: How to Find Relationships That Are Good For You and Avoid Those That Aren’t by Henry Cloud and John Townsend, will help you discern character and recognize manipulative harmful people before it’s too late. Here is there list of what to look for in people that are unsafe:

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