Relationships Take Effort
What do these phrases have in common: “I am too busy”, “I am not good at it”, “I don’t need others”, “it is too much trouble”? These are all common excuses for living our lives with no room for others.
There are many one-another verses in the Bible. This should help us to realize how significant our relationships are as Christians. We can’t practice the one-anothers unless we are engaged in relationships! But some people may find this realization discouraging rather than encouraging. Some may find relationship-building difficult due to the fear of man that can manifest in our lives in a variety of ways. Others are struggling with broken relationships. We may find ourselves disappointed due to unmet expectations. Perhaps we fear rejection and avoid relationships by keeping ourselves too busy to engage. Sometimes, we simply do not make room for others in our lives.
God’s Word is clear that we are not meant to walk through life on our own. If we do not make room for other people in our lives, we will miss one of the means of grace that God has given us for our good and His glory. Relationships must be cultivated and considered to be part of our sanctification process. Hospitality and relationship building take time and effort, but they are essential.
We Need Relationships
We live in a culture that promotes independence, individualism, and autonomy. The Bible, however, promotes community, dependence on God, and relationship. People can attend and be a part of a local church, and not experience true community because the culture has crept into the church. Many people in our churches experience more loneliness than belonging and acceptance. Many Christians do not have significant relationships even within their own church contexts.
We can glean some important lessons from the apostle Paul’s ability to establish relationships wherever he went, whether it was during his younger years or during his missionary campaigns as he traveled city to city. In every place, he established and maintained a supportive and encouraging community.
In Paul’s very personal letter to the church in 1 Thessalonians, we see some keys to developing and maintaining relationships.
1 Thessalonians 2:7-8 “But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.”
Cultivating and Maintaining Relationships
A child needing their mother is a picture of a very strong need and intimate bond. God revealed our deep need for others when He said “It is not good for the man to be alone” in Genesis 2:18. Our relationships are not to be taken lightly because they do require effort. Beyond simply reaching out to others, we need to be transparent and share our lives honestly.
Honesty and transparency develop trust in a relationship, drawing people closer to each other. Whenever Paul wrote to a church, he called by name two, three or four people that he was close to. Through his caring interaction with people, these became important gospel-friendships that stood the test of time.
In order for us to develop the kind of relationships we see in Paul’s letters, we need to first admit the need and then reach out to others. We need to model transparency, show genuine care, and engage in the one-another’s of scripture so that our brothers and sisters in Christ are edified and so that God is glorified. When Paul says, in vs. 8, that they were ready to share “our own selves” along with the gospel, we see that he did not hold back. He opened his life to others, and so must we.
In other words, he made room for others. He did not use the excuses that are common today. We make room for others when we purposefully pursue others in our churches through hospitality and friendship. When we make room for others, people will feel loved and cared for as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Hebrews 10:24-25 “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Are you making room for others? How are you actively maintaining those relationships? If you are not close to others, how can you begin to cultivate authenticity and transparency?