Having relationships with other people is part of being human. Interacting socially with others is engrained into who we are. Family relationships and friendships stimulate us emotionally, mentally, and even spiritually. God created us to desire community and relate to others in a healthy way.
In his book “For the City,” Pastor Darrin Patrick describes the first human relationship in Adam and Eve as this:
After creating Adam, though, we note something interesting as the Genesis account unfolds. Now, for the first time in created history, God says that something is not good: “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone.’” (Gen. 2:18a) … The incompleteness of Adam was more than just being physically alone. Adam was not yet complete because by himself he could not fully reflect the God who had made him. It was not good for Adam to be alone, not because God failed to make him good, but because God made him so that Adam would reflect God’s own image, and that reflection was not complete in Adam alone … God created Eve in such a way that they, together, could image God and reflect Him to the creation.
If God intended for us to reflect His image to others and interact with each other while mirroring His attributes, why do we do such a poor job of it? As my pastor has stated before, “If you have a relationship with another person, you know what a trial is.” Sure, relationships, whether familial, casual, or romantic, bring happy times. But, they also bring a lot of heartache and pain. Why is that? Obviously, that is not what God wants.
If we look at the fruits of the Spirit, we will see wonderful things such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). Instead of skimming through the list and thinking, “Oh, those are nice…” let’s apply them to the way we interact with others. Do we love others well? Are we patient with others? Kind? Faithful? Gentle? Peaceful?
The Apostle Paul had a lot to say about the way we treat our brothers and sisters in Christ. Romans chapter 12 outlines some great standards to live by:
Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other … When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone (vv. 10, 13-18).
At first, these principals sound great. Who wouldn’t want to be provided for when in need, forgiven after making a mistake, celebrated with during a victory and comforted during sorrow? But, this verse isn’t commanding that we receive these things – it’s commanding us to do these things for others. Why then do we act as if these types of verses only apply to us and not to others?
I believe the number one reason why people fail at relationships is selfishness. When you are selfish, you put your needs above all others. How can you have a relationship with someone else when it’s just you that you’re thinking about? Simply put, you can’t. As a Christian, one should understand that life is not about them. The Bible is clear in its message: Christ > His people > you.
Philippians 2:3-8 says:
“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though He was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, He gave up His divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When He appeared in human form, He humbled Himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.”
Since we are to be “imitators of God” (Eph. 5:1), we have no excuse when we are selfish. Jesus was not selfish when He died on the cross for us. He is not selfish with His love, grace, and mercy (Rom.5:8, 1 John 4:19). So, why should we live selfishly? In fact, the Bible says that “we don’t live for ourselves or die for ourselves. If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord” (Rom.14:7-8). We are God’s children, bought with the price of Christ’s blood (1 Cor. 6:20). The life we have is given to us by God. Therefore, if we live only for ourselves we are going against God’s plan. We are to live for Him and for others.
When we obey God’s Word and strive to reflect His image in our lives, our relationships with other people will flourish. That’s not to say that despite our best efforts, some people may not want to reciprocate the sentiments. God understands that. Paul says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Rom. 12:18). Live selflessly, imitate Christ, and try your hardest to get along with your fellow man. It’s in the very will of God to do so!