God cares about how we relate with one another which is why we talk about relationships all the time at Northstar. Talking about relationships makes sense to us because all of our life is about relationships. From beginning to end, we spend our lives relating to others. We want to know and be known, to understand and be understood, to care and be cared for. And we want to love and be loved. But our relationships are often marked by tension, misunderstanding, and distance rather than by the security, acceptance and the closeness we desire. Even our most intimate relationships are at times anything but what we want them to be. While it can sometimes seem like a stretch goal, we can achieve radical relationships.
Something To Talk About:
Radical relationships are more than a trend, they are increasingly becoming a requirement for those who want to experience the life God intended us to have. Radical relationships require us to:
- Invest time: Relationships take time. It is probably true that the amount of time that we think we are spending in our relationships is less than we actually spend. Think about it, you’re at work over forty hours, plus commute time, you work out, or watch TV; as a result, there is precious little time to invest in real conversations, and quality time together with other people. Being busy with daily tasks is a part of life, but when your calendar shuts out your relationships, then we need to rethink our priorities. In today’s world, it is not easy to find the time. But radical relationships require time. Maybe we need to move it up on our priority list. It may be that we stop doing some things, or maybe we need to learn to say no, or maybe we just need to get better at time management.
- Earn trust: The important part of any relationship is trust. Jesus teaches about the essence of trust in scripture. If we are trustworthy with something that has a little value, we can also be trusted with something that has greater value. Jesus indicates that true riches are found in relationships of faith, trusting God and trusting each other. Trust develops steadily and gradually over time. A believer who has trusted Jesus for forty years can tell you that his or her trust in God keeps growing, often through challenges and times of testing. Healthy trust that’s rooted in a vibrant relationship with God also helps us to trust other people in our lives. There is no relationship that is so broken that God cannot restore when both parties humble themselves and work together to restore trust.
- Listen with empathy: Listening is probably the most important skill in building friendships and relationships because you can’t love people without listening to them. There’s a big difference between hearing and listening. You can hear something and not really be listening. Somebody can say to you, “I’m fine,” but the way they say it tells you they’re not fine. Listening means you also hear what the person isn’t saying. That’s called empathy. Empathy means to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Learn their point of view. Ask yourself, “How would I feel if I were in that situation?” You listen for what they aren’t saying. You’re not trying to fix the situation. Romans 15:2 says, “…we must bear the ‘burden’ of being considerate of the doubts and fears of others…” (TLB).
- Accept their flaws: Sometimes we can find ourselves focusing on the flaws of others; concentrating on all the ways others have failed or wronged us. We can become experts in evaluating others because we would never do that or fall into that trap. The one major problem with that is that the evaluator is a sinner just like the evaluatee. When I criticize someone else for committing a sin I believe myself to be free from, I’m forgetting the obvious truth that Jesus is the one who has given me every victory I have ever experienced over sin. Paul warns the Corinthians about lifting themselves up on their supposed merits as if they were responsible for generating them: “For what gives you the right to make such a judgment? What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if everything you have is from God, why boast as though it were not a gift?” (I Corinthians 4:7) God calls us to see others through His eyes. He calls us to accept others the way He does—as dearly loved, broken children of God who are created in His own image. Accepting each other and loving each other in spite of our faults is seeing others the way God does.
- Celebrate wins and share losses: Do you have people in your life who encourage you to be your best? Do you have friends who are there for you when life is hard? Do you support other people when they need you and share in their happiness when things are going well? Paul tells us we must “Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15) We should look for opportunities to enter into the joy of others and truly empathize with those who are rejoicing. “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” ( Zephaniah 3:17). By rejoicing with other people, as well as sharing their losses, we show our love for them in Christ.
- Bring out their best: Hebrews 10:24-25 (TPT) says ”Discover creative ways to encourage others and to motivate them toward acts of compassion, doing beautiful works as expressions of love. This is not the time to pull away and neglect[c] meeting together, as some have formed the habit of doing, because we need each other! In fact, we should come together even more frequently, eager to encourage and urge each other onward as we anticipate that day dawning.” If you want to receive the best from people and bring out the best in people, expect the best from them. You can’t bring out the best in other people until you first accept their uniqueness. We must all learn that we don’t have to compare ourselves with anybody else. God put each child on this earth for an individual purpose and reason. Always make the conscious effort to appreciate others for who they are. It’s the right thing to do.
- What causes a relationship to be classified as radical? What are the most important qualities necessary in a radical/healthy relationship?
- Relationships can be a risk. But it’s a risk worth taking. You can only experience radical relationships when you take the risk of moving closer. Agree or disagree and why?
- Is there a relationship in your life that has been broken because trust has been broken? How can you respond in a godly way to contribute to the restoration of trust? And, if you are the one who wronged another, how can you go about the task of restoring trust?
- Can you think back on a time in your life when you began to more deeply understand the importance of relationships?
- In your opinion, can a broken relationship be mended? Why or why not? Are you optimistic that the relationship will be mended? Why or why not?
- What does it mean to you to listen with empathy? Once you’ve listened how do you act with empathy?
- When you hear the phrase: “hard to love” or “extra grace required;” who comes to mind? What makes this person (or type of person) different from other people you care about?
- There are things about ourselves and others that we struggle to accept. God chose you because He loves you for who you are. Just as He made allowances for your faults, He expects you to make allowances for the faults of others. How can you start making allowances for other people’s faults starting today?
- How can we best share in the wins and losses of others?
- What can we do this week to improve our relationships?
- What role are we meant to play in each other’s lives in terms of helping each other be the best we can be?
- What is one thing God is speaking to you through this message?
Take one thing home with you:
What about those difficult people? Our natural tendency is to drift away from “difficult” people rather than to move toward them in love. But in spite of the difficulties, we have a mandate from God to love unlovely people and to connect intentionally with others, even those we don’t naturally want to.