I recently graphed out my genealogical and relational tree and was surprised at the number of branches. It is a bit amazing when you conscientiously look at the relationships you have had with others during your life. As I was looking at it through my eyes, I decided to look at it through the eyes of God, specifically through Ephesians 4:31-32 “Stop being bitter and angry and mad at others. Don’t yell at one another or curse each other or ever be rude. Instead, be kind and merciful, and forgive others, just as God forgave you because of Christ.” (The Promise)
Certainly, I remembered many occasions when I was kind and merciful, even forgiving of the people represented on this tree, but I was also convicted of being bitter, angry, and mad, even yelling, cursing, and being rude. What was particularly troubling is the number of people who were on both lists! How can I be kind, while being bitter? How can I be merciful, yet angry and mad? How can I forgive while yelling, cursing, and being rude to another person? I cannot…none of us can and that is the premise God designed and desires for our relationships.
We all exist in a network of relationships—the quality of which goes a long way in determining how happy and effective we are. It sounds so obvious, doesn’t it? Our relationships are a key to our self-understanding, happiness, reputation, self-esteem, balance in our personal lives and social networks. Yet few of us give much thought to making them work.
If we maintained our cars the way we maintain our relationships, most of us would be in the ditch. But the fact is, most of us still manage to keep going. Our relationships are often in poor shape, and on some level we are aware of this, but we choose not to do anything about it. Most of the time we merely work around the discomfort these unintended consequences from relationships cause in our lives rather than addressing them head on.
Good relationships don’t happen by accident – they require work. What happens if we take seriously the idea of prioritizing relationships, not just in certain contexts, but systematically across the whole spectrum of life? Intentionality is the key strategy: conscious planning and review is required as our sheer habits and learned behaviors often handicap us.
Relationships underlie not only Christian ethics, but our whole understanding about the nature of God. The pursuit of right relationships lies at the heart of the Bible; the root of a strong relationship is Jesus Christ.