This month I am going to be addressing the subject of relationships. Everything in the body of Christ is about relationship. I believe that everything in life is a matter of relationships. Proper relationships produce the substance of life. It was God’s gift of His Son that gave us eternal life. Eternal life is a place of relationship. It is the gift of knowing God and Jesus Christ whom He sent in a personal way now and forevermore. Intimacy with God is the source of eternal life. It is the source of life and that life more abundant.
As leaders in the body of Christ we must understand the importance of relationships. Relationships are more important than any task of ministry. We are not merely called to serve, but to relate to God and to God’s family. It is out of relationship that we serve. Service in ministry doesn’t create relationships, but proper relationships will empower us to serve in ministry.
There are certain ingredients that are essential in any living relationship. Everything in life is a matter of relationship. Relationship is the most important value of life. It is the key to the expansion of the kingdom of God and it is essential that we as believers in Christ discover the secrets of life-giving relationships. Whether it is your relationship with God, with your spouse in marriage, with your family members, your church members, your leadership team, or whatever relational connection you might have; I believe there are seven Biblical levels of connection. I also believe that here are seven root causes and symptoms of failed relationships. Today I will lay a foundation for us to understand the ingredients to a healthy relationship and as the month unfolds I will present the causes of failure in relationships. I wrote in regard to these things in my June and July weekly personal blogs of 2012, but this same material is essential for us as leaders in Christ’s Church.
Please remember that there are many different types of relationships and that the principles I am presenting are more critical in covenant level connections than in short term objectives. I am especially concerned with covenant level relationships that are meant to bear the fruit of destiny in life. Even if you have experienced a failed covenant relationship, God wants to give you keys for the relationships of the future. I am also going to assume that you, like I, have determined to commit your way to God and that you understand the will for your life is not based upon your own personal agendas. God has a plan for your life and He has your best interests in mind when it comes to relational connections. With this in mind, let me begin to set a foundation for understanding the ingredients of a life-giving relationship.
Within a healthy relationship there is a foundation of commitment for the relationship. So the first key element to a life-giving relationship is a commitment to the other or others in the relationship. This commitment is based upon a divine connection and it is a matter of the heart. It is the source of desire in the relationship. This is why it is very important to consider the possible boundaries for any relationship before allowing your heart to go to a level of commitment. God gives clear direction in His written word that confirms His voice in our lives. If we ignore simple wisdom like “equal yoking”, “godly pursuits”, “godly lifestyles”, “covenant principles” or other things instructed by God we will be inviting a destructive force into the foundation of any relationship we seek. Every relationship will be tested and only those established on God’s word and godly character produce the destiny of God’s will. We won’t get everything right, but we must seek to try to get it right!
The strength of any commitment in a relationship is the heart. Even if you are part of a team that sells a product, you must first be convinced that the product is valuable to those who will buy it. It cannot just be a matter of reasoning of the mind, you must believe in your product in your heart. This is even truer in life-giving relationships. You must believe in your heart that God is good in order for your commitment to Him to be lasting and true. The source of your belief must be rooted in your heart and not merely your head. For a relationship to be birthed and succeed takes a commitment to believe in the ingredients and the purpose of the relationship. The ingredients are its members and the purpose is its destiny.
When a man or woman fall in love with each other the human heart becomes very big and the mind can become very set in its way. I have observed this in too many situations to even count. This is the way of things. It is not a bad thing. I think it is a good thing. The problem comes when we give our hearts to a relationship that we shouldn’t have in the first place, because when a relationship captures our heart our minds become blind to any altering wisdom. The wonder of the heart is almost like a gift of stupidity to any flaws that might be found. The flaws will soon enough manifest, but relationship is not base upon perfection. It is based upon connection that is willing to seek to press through all things to the perfection that can be found through the relationship.
When we find the key of commitment to a relationship we progress to a second level in the relationship. This is a level of actions. Every relational commitment is testified by actions of faith for the relationship. These are not self-gratifying actions, but actions that seek to reveal a value of our commitment to the other or others in the relationship. Self-gratifying actions are not relational. They are self-focused and will only serve in aiding the destruction of a relationship.
Here is a key to every relationship: the strength of every relationship is only found at its simplest level of its formation. That simplest level is the point of your commitment. I call it a “first love” level of the relationship. The degree of connection to the “first love” level of the relationship will determine the increasing degree of the action level and every other level that follows.
When I counsel couples that are about to enter into the covenant of marriage I make them do a couple of things. First we get a dictionary and we mark out the word “divorce” with a non-translucent dark marker. I instruct them that “divorce” cannot be an option in a covenant life-giving relationship. The removal of the word “divorce” then creates another problem with their dictionary, because if “divorce” can never be an option then neither can words pertaining to “merely existing” or “just getting by”. These types of words must also be removed. We cannot merely “exist” in a relationship and expect it to be a covenant life-giving reality. Since these words are then also removed from their dictionary we must then find a word like “flourish” and we have to mark it with an extremely bright translucent marker so they will pay full attention to its meaning and its development in their relationship. I then tell the couple that the worst day of their marriage should be the day they get married and it should actually be wonderful and astounding! I explain that it is the “worst day” because no other day can look back and make a comparison. It is a first experience that is the result of a “first love” commitment. First experiences are never meant to be repeated; they are meant to be continually lived. Every couple must live in a “first love” level in order to constantly create new “first experiences” in their relationship. Some experiences will be with great joy while others will include great pain, but they will be the experiences that come from committing their lives to one another in all things. It is a place of the heart and not a place of the reasoning of the mind. This principle is true in the highest level of covenant such as marriage, but there is also a reality of this truth in the core connection of a covenant leadership team.
Beyond the level of actions there are levels of response, submission, contribution, selfless love, and dedication. I believe that every God-ordained relationship must have within it increasing measures of commitment, faith, response, submission, contribution, love, and dedication. I will continue with more of these in my next week’s blog. For today please consider the simplest form of every relationship in your life. It begins with a heartfelt commitment. Please return to your “first love” level of commitment and expect this week to begin a new measure of the first experiences discovered in the life-giving relationships of your life.
The “first love” level of commitment is essential to a covenant leadership team. Each member of the team must realize that they are there for one another and that together they stand for the purposes of God in their lives.
Food For Thought,
Ted J. Hanson