Our relational health is very important for our well being. In fact, lots of research has been done on this, some going back over 100 years. All the research shows that a person’s happiness and well being doesn’t depend primarily on money, success, popularity or power. Dr. Emiliana Simon-Thomas science director of the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley says that “We find that people who have strong social connections are happier. That’s number one.”
So is it really any wonder that the early followers of Jesus devoted themselves to gathering together in homes, studying God’s Word together, praying together and eating together.
I think we all recognize that relationships are important, but how do we make our relationships better?
6 Keys to Improving Relationships
These keys to improving relationships come from the NT book of Colossians. Paul was teaching the early church about how to have healthy relationships. He mentions some characteristics or qualities that each of us need to cultivate. If we do, the likelihood of our having healthy, satisfying relationships goes way up.
" Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each otherand forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." Colossians 3:12-14
Paul says “clothe yourselves with compassion.” Compassion has to do with how you view other people. It’s your predisposition toward others. Paul says we should have compassion toward them as opposed to judgmental attitudes, suspicion, condemnation and feelings of superiority. Paul says if you want to relate to people in healthy ways, you have to start from a place of compassion.
Kindness is not the same thing as just trying to be nice. Churches are often filled with people who think God's basic request for their life is to just be nice. Paul's use of this word kindness is something a little different. Kindness has more to do with the capacity to encourage or build up another person. So the real question here is, in your relationships are you an encourager? Are you authentically able to speak into someone's life and build them up? Kindness is something that God shows to everybody, whether people know Him or not. He is kind all the time, kindness is something the Spirit of God wants to work into our relationships.
Many people misunderstand this word. They think of “humility” as a need to think poorly about themselves. That is not humility. Actually humility in the Bible has nothing to do with self-deprecation. Humility is actually more about how you see others than about how you see yourself. The heart of humility is making sure your world is about more than just you. There is this direct relationship between how much we focus on ourselves and whether or not we can be close to someone else. This is why when we describe ourselves as a church community…we say,”We are a community of people who aren’t perfect and don’t pretend to be.” We say that because we want to live in humility. That is at the core of our theology as a church. We all fall short, all of us have messy relationships. All of us have struggles and problems. All of us have stuff going on in our home that wouldn't want anyone to know about. None of us are perfect
Gentleness is being tender, even when you have to be tough. That’s what we need to be in each other’s lives. Our families, our work associates, our friends and our small groups all need truth with gentleness. Relationships can’t go deeper without truth. But truth served up harshly, truth spoken in anger and bitterness can damage a relationship beyond repair.
Patience is what we expect from others, but what we think others don’t deserve. To be patient you have to be committed to a relationship. You have to be in it for the long haul? Even when it's not easy. Relationships are a mixture of good and bad, joy and sorrow, ups and downs. Ultimately we are called to be patient, because God is patient with us.
The reason relationships are hard is because forgiveness is hard. We hurt each other. In fact, everyone in your life at some point is going to hurt you. When they do, you have a choice to make. Will you forgive or will you withhold that forgiveness? Will you forgive or will you cling to anger, resentment and bitterness? The apostle Paul says “Forgive whatever grievances you may have against oneanother. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.“ In other words, forgive not because it's easy, not because they ask for it, not even because they deserve it. Forgive one another, simply because that's what God has done for you. This is not easy stuff. Having healthy relationships is not easy. It just so happens to be the key to human thriving and flourishing.
In all of this, it is important to remember that we don't go out and build relationships, because we have the capacity or capability. We go out and do it because of what God has done for us. The real key to healthy relationships, is knowing that we are God’s chosen people, we are holy and dearly loved, because of Jesus. This is not just a self-improvement list. This is about being loved by God Almighty, our Heavenly Father, and then turning that love around and showing it to other people in our families, work, church and small groups.
To hear the sermon that this blog is based on, visit deercreekchurch.com/sermons
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