Developing Great Relationships

God’s Wonderful Blessing — How to Have Great Relationships



God’s Wonderful Blessing—How to Have Great Relationships


I am a spiritual magpie. I steal the spiritual characteristics in other people that get applauded the most. Of course you can reply that it is admirable that I imitate the good that I see in others. But this is not the case. I am not taking these attitudes and making them part of my life as you might take clay and use it to form a nose on a statue. Rather I am merely reflecting what I see but it penetrates no more than a flashlight shining on my chest. I wear these spiritual attributes like a large slogan button.

I acquire these tricks not because I am so enthralled with maturity, discipline, character (although these are all good things) but more because I am enticed by applause, appreciation, and acceptance. Someone just complimented the pastor? —Why, I can be like that too! Over there a praise is being dished out? –I’ve got that recipe written down. Did I hear a pat on the back? –I can change faster than Clark Kent! I’m a spiritual hypochondriac. If the spiritual vogue were large, round eyes then I would resemble a loris faster than you can peel a banana.

I view every encounter as a report card with me trying to guess the grades. Would they comment that I am well liked and get along with my other classmates? Forget penmanship, arithmetic, and reading. We’re talking about popularity, spirituality, and recognizability. Teacher’s pet—you would never read that on a real report card, but pastor’s pet! —Now if I could pull that one then that would be better than running A+s down the line. That would be a report card suitable for framing or better yet, carrying around in my Bible so that every time I open up the word of God it opens right to where the card is. Then next time that old lady pulls out her grandchildren’s pictures I can nudge in and open up my Bible, “Did you happen to notice what the pastor says about me?” I can even now hear the “oooos” and see the admiring glances.

The result is not that I become all things to all men as Paul did but, instead, I act like I think all men want me to act. If twitching were suddenly deemed a spiritual gift then my left eye would look like it was always being electrocuted. I never examine myself; I only watch others. Ask me my five biggest weakness—I could not tell you. What sins am I struggling with? –Don’t know. Why did they just make that person an elder? –That I can tell you!

I acquire and shed these traits with the speed of a poker player exchanging cards. To be quite honest, it can quite wear me out. Sometimes I wonder if it might be easier to just be myself.



        Relationships can be infinitely varied and vastly different in depth. They can also be hard. Relationships can be hard for those who are terribly shy or fearful. They can be hard for those who lack social skills or who have been isolated for so long that they lack people experience. They can be hard for those who have been hurt a lot and have learned to put up barriers. They can be hard for those who are constantly around self-centered, inconsiderate people or for those who are in a marriage that is far from communicative.

        We must “practice” relationships. For each relationship that we are involved in, no matter how short, there is something to learn about who we are and how we can better understand other people. Even the most bitter and disappointing relationship can teach us valuable lessons that can make our subsequent relationships deeper, stronger, and wiser.

        We are going to examine a number of characteristics that form relationships. Some of these are good; some are bad. Some should be developed to improve a relationship and some should be recognized as red flags to possibly get out of a relationship or at least proceed more slowly.

        None of this is absolute and there will be as many variations and applications as there are people in the world. But there are principles here that can be recognized as being universal. Hopefully, studying these characteristics will make each one of us a better friend and maybe prevent us from making a bad mistake.

        Christians who are great friends to each other are not only good for the individuals and for the church, but it is probably the best witness that we can make to those outside of the church. The early church grew tremendously because of Christians who demonstrated sacrificial love. Speaking about the first few centuries, “Personal evangelism was often backed up by outstanding acts of kindness…. During outbreaks of plague at Alexandria, Christians tended the sick and buried the dead when nearly everyone else had fled. In fact, the Christian life-style itself was a very powerful influence in evangelism. In a society where kindness, honesty and personal purity were rare, Christians who lived out these virtues were sure to attract comment and often serious enquiry.”[2]

        Though it certainly has its place, most people will not be moved to Christ because of strong apologetics or great evangelism techniques. They do not suddenly come to a realization that they need correct doctrine and so show up at church. What draws people to God is love, forgiveness, mercy, peace, and so on. Jeremiah reiterates this, “The LORD appeared to him from afar, saying, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.’” It has been said that there are five Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and yourself and probably the only one that most people will read is the last one.

        When we snap at people we bring reproach upon God. Many people’s view of God is the Christian in front of them. Who would want to come to a God whose followers are gossips, impatience, cranky, malicious, or moody? But when Christians love then people will come.

        But before we examine these qualities we should define what a relationship is. This is not easy since there are many levels ranging from the person that we meet only once in a while and exchange a few words with to the marriage partner with whom we share our most intimate emotions. So our definition will form the entire next section.

Levels of friendship

        Many books describe different levels of friendship. Some will have as few as three and some as many as six. I have settled on four levels. Maybe that is because I do not like living on the edge and so generally take the middle road. I think that by using this resolution we can adequately describe each level in a practical way. We are going to describe each level and then look at some practical ways of developing and strengthening those friendships at each level.

Why is it important to understand these levels? It is more than an exercise of categorization. It is because all too often a person has never or can not move beyond the first or second level of conversation. They may want to become more intimate or have a deeper or exclusive commitment but because of some fear or because of a lack of social skills they have been frustrated. Understanding practical ways to do this can be very helpful.

Listed below are some questions or concepts associated with each level. Of course, you can add your own questions but part of the idea is to learn what is appropriate to ask and when. For example, you would not want to blurt out a question to someone who is merely an acquaintance a question like, “What is the dumbest thing that you’ve ever done in your life?” That person would probably be taken back and if he did not verbalize it he would surely be thinking, “Why should I tell you that? I hardly know you.” However, it would usually be appropriate to ask, “What type of work do you do?” These sample questions might make developing friendships a little easier.

Also, if you are only willing to give yourself to a relationship at a lower lever then you do not have the right to expect deeper intimacy or commitment from the other person. You should both be at the some general level. But if this is not the case then you should be the one who is more willing to be vulnerable and open. Do not expect from that other person what you are unwilling to give yourself.

Realize that getting through these levels takes time and effort. The deeper that you go the harder it will be and the more vulnerable you will become. Sometimes there will be problems that will set things back. That does not necessarily mean that the relationship is doomed and should be forsaken. It just may mean that you will have to work your way back to that same point and then possibly beyond.

        Not all relationships must deepen as time goes on. Some relationships are quite comfortable at the casual level, for example, and to force it beyond that would create a strain. As you “practice” relationships you will best be able to discern when to leave things as they are and when to go beyond.

Our relationship with God should be at the fourth and deepest level. We should be willing to trust Him with all that we are and all that we are not. Again, this may take time, but it will grow if we continue to read the Bible every day, pray, attend a good church, remember His good deeds for us, and worship Him.


Four levels of friendships



Levels of Friendship

Formed by

Distinguishing Characteristics



Occasional contact

Small talk, general questions, clichés, public information. May involve a small superficial interest such as a favorite sport’s team or how the children are doing.



Common interests, activities, and concerns

Can talk about ongoing specific circumstances, general personal questions, opinions, ideas, and broad goals. May occasionally get together outside of chance meetings.



Mutual ideas and goals

Can discuss life goals, desires, and problems in detail. There is an interest in and sharing of feelings. These are people who know each other well and are familiar with a number of issues in each other’s lives. They are freer to open up to each other but with some limitations.



Commitment to each other

There is a deep trust and vulnerability. Each person feels responsible for the other and is truly concerned about the other. There is honestly, respect, and understanding. There are no or, at least, very few boundaries.


        This level has practically no risk. This may be the person at the gas station that you most frequent or at a favorite store. It may be someone that you occasionally talk to at work or church. But just because this person is not deeply involved in your life does not mean that you must be unconcerned. Here are some thoughts regarding this type of relationship.

·         Learn and remember his or her name. Then use it the next time that you see them.

·         Always pleasantly greet them. Do not be friendly at some times and ignore them at others.

·         As long as you are not inconsiderate to other people that might be waiting be willing to take a few more seconds than usual to show extra interest in that person.

·         If it is at work then look around that person’s area to see if there is anything that they have displayed that you can ask about. It might be a family picture or a vacation photo. Or maybe ask them how long they have been working at this place.

·         Be alert to the person that you are talking to. Do not look around as though you are trying to find someone more interesting. It was said that John Kennedy gave such undivided attention to whomever he was talking to, that he made that person feel like he was the most important person in the world to him.

·         Be a good listener and remember what they say. Then mention that the next time that you see them.

·         As you leave, pray silently for that person.


For people that you are able to spend more time with than an occasional moment you should be able to move from the acquaintance to the casual level without much difficulty. There is still not much openness and vulnerability here. In some ways these may be the most difficult relationships to maintain because there often is not much to talk about since you both do not know each other very well. Conversation is usually limited to the same topics and issues. But that does not mean that a sincere effort should not be made to encourage this person. All of the points mentioned under “Acquaintance” apply here and then some.

·         Listen carefully and ask appropriate specific questions.

·         Be open to answering their questions about yourself and be honest.

·         If it is appropriate, ask them for some things you can pray for them. This is usually a very good way to learn more about a person.

·         If they express a concern then try to support them. This may involve looking up some information and getting back to them or it may simply require praying. At a later time ask how that concern is going.

What are some level two types of questions? Notice that the answers to these questions generally require only facts; feelings are not involved. They are also not “yes” or “no” answers.

·         How many brothers and sisters do you have?

·         Where have you lived?

·         Did you go to college?

·         What was your major?

·         Where do work?

·         Where do you go to church?

·         Why did you pick that church?

·         Are you involved in any ministries?

·         Do you think that the church should be involved in politics or not?

·         Is it true that many of your ancestors are missing fingers because they got caught stealing goats? (Use this question gingerly.)


        These are friendships that take time to develop. If two people hit it off as causal friends and they both have the time and availability then they can become close friends. Questions can often aim at discerning the underlying feelings to many of the actions or attitudes of the person. Because of this, many people never reach this level of friendship, all of their relationships never get deeper than the discussion of facts. In that case, the dominant bond is nothing more than common interests like sports, children, or ministry. But at this level there is a greater degree of vulnerability and a greater chance of disagreement. People who have been hurt frequently may never develop this level of friendship again. But even though this level involves risk it is worth the effort.

·         Discover that person’s goals and see how you might be able to help.

·         Learn each other’s struggles and be there to help each other.

·         Spend time together whether on the phone or in person.

·         Be willing to take the initiative and not just always wait for them to set up getting together.

·         Learn what motivates that person, what their interests or hobbies are, and what qualities in people they find the most important.

·         Pray together.

Ask questions that do not just require facts but involve underlying feelings or motives.

·         What are your favorite types of movies? Why?

·         What do you think your spiritual gift is?

·         What are some important things in your life?

·         How do you feel when someone treats you that way? (If you are discussing a specific situation.)

·         What was the most embarrassing time in your life?

·         What are some things that really make you happy?

·         Are there any things that really annoy you?

·         What are some of your greatest fears or temptations?

·         Disregarding money or talent, if you were able to choose any job in the world what would it be?


        This is the level of friendship that all marriages should achieve and is certainly possible for two unmarried people. It is a level that is usually restricted to maybe one or two people at a time in a person’s life. It is undoubtedly the most rewarding relationship but it is also the most difficult. It requires a lot of honesty, a lot of sharing, and a lot of openness. It is the relationship that all of us should have with God.

·         Spend a great deal of time together.

·         Be able to rejoice together and mourn together.

·         Learn to be a comfort and support through each other’s trials.

·         Help each other to defeat any sins or temptations.

·         Be committed to shaping each other into the character of Christ.

·         Work through conflicts.

·         Deepen your understanding and trust of each other.

·         Understand how previous experiences shaped his or her current thinking.

·         Discuss the Bible and pray together

By this point you will know what kind of questions you will be asking each other.


You are jealous if you:

·         Wish that since you cannot have it then they should not have it either

·         Despise the person because of what they have and show it in subtle ways such as being unfriendly, sarcastic, or belittling

·         Tell yourself or maybe even others that that person does not deserve what they have

·         Scheme how you can get that from the other person even if doing so is unrighteous or unfair

·         Spend too much time thinking about what you do not have and what someone else does have


First impressions—mistakes that you can make on a date (or in any relationship)

        Going out on a date can be nerve wrecking. You want to do your best so that means that you have the capability of doing the stupidest things that you could ever imagine possible. It is just like when you are in a hurry. That is when you drop everything, when you break your shoelace, and when you keep having to turn around to go back and get something that you forgot.

        So if you are aware of what you can do wrong then maybe it will be easier to avoid them rather than blindly stumbling into them. Also, if you are the type of person that habitually does these sorts of things then maybe it is time to consider making a change.

The thing to keep in mind while we are looking at these is that you can apply these same principles to all relationships and that includes your relationship with God. This does not just have to apply to your first date with someone.

Do not plan out in your mind exactly how the date should go

How many times when you are anticipating a date do you think, “Then this will happen and then that will happen and then he’ll say this and it’ll end like this”? And then the date goes well but because it did not go exactly the way that you had hoped you are now a little disappointed?

Though you cannot plan every part of a date as though you are both reading from a script, some people devise conversational expectations and checkpoints that they try to hold to no matter where the actual conversation is going.

Get rid of the script. It is fine to have some topics of conversation tucked away just in case things get slow but do not plan out the evening. Especially do not plan out how the other person will respond to questions that you may ask and how you will then use those responses to work your way to some greater end. For example, you ask, “Do you like to play miniature golf?” You expect her to answer that she does and then you will lead to asking her if she would like to play a few games next weekend. You have the place scouted out, how long a couple of games would take, and where the nearest coffee shop is. You feel confident that she will be impressed with your planning abilities and with a big smile agree to the date. But then she says, “No, I really don’t like miniature golf.” Your plan just hit the floor, shattered, and was swept away by a large push broom. Suddenly the whole evening becomes tense. Now you do not know what to do about a next date. Your confidence has fallen and you are wondering if this is a sign from God to can the whole thing.

Proverbs 16:9 says, “The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.” It’s been said, “We plan, God laughs.” On dates its, “We overly plan, we cry.” Having some kind of script will make you tense and, more often than not, you will find yourself missing more checkpoints then you will having things go according to your plot. Dump the “And then she’ll say this and that’ll be the perfect opening for me to say that.” Instead, just be yourself and have fun.

Hiding the real you so that you can fit into the other person’s expectations

This is where you are being who you think your date wants you to be rather than being who you really are. There is nothing wrong with showing interest in what the other person likes or asking specifics about their hobbies even if it something that you would never be interested in. The problem is trying to become whatever it is that he or she finds interesting. For example, she likes to travel and, even though you’ve never cared to leave your own county, all of sudden you are a budding Jacques Cousteau. Or she likes to collect thimbles and, by George, you have always had a deep yearning to start your own collection and maybe she will be willing to help you.

The question is, “Do you want someone who will ultimately accept and love the real you or the chameleon that you have become?”

God, who is our example of all right relationships, does not present different sides of Himself to different people simply so that He will be more likable. He does not promise untold riches to the greedy but poverty to the ascetics. He does not promise smooth sailing to the easily frightened but challenges galore to the hearty of soul. He does not promise easy comfort to the lazy but unqualified success to the ambitious. God is who He is and we must accept Him for exactly that.

In 1 Corinthians 9:22 Paul does say, “I have become all things to all men” but that was related to seeing people saved. It was not in the context of dating.

Sometimes, though, it is good to suppress some bad or odd habits. If you have a habit of sticking your thumb in your ear and wiggling your fingers vigorously then do not do that. If you think that your date would like to hear her name burped out then think again. If you like to gun your car and then hit the brakes to test the seatbelts then refrain from such activity. There is a difference between being a phony and being an idiot.

Ultimately, we will be more comfortable when we are ourselves and not when we are morphing into whatever we surmise the other person is looking for.

Lying about yourself

Why would you lie about yourself? Perhaps it is because you are not confident enough with who you are to believe that if you present the real you then you will be liked. What are some things that you might lie about? You may up your job title. Or you may exaggerate the number of dates that you have been on or the number of ministries that you have been in. Or that you are good friends with someone important. Basically you are doing anything to make yourself look more impressive.

A prestigious university hired a coach to run their football team. This was one of the most visible and honorable college coaching jobs in the country. A few days later he was caught having lied on his resume about athletics that he claimed happened decades ago but actually did not. So he was let go. Why did he lie? Because he thought that in the beginning of his career he needed to pad his resume so that he could get a better job. But once that deed was done it was too late to change it. He was forced to carry that lie throughout his career hoping that no one would ever notice. But they did and it cost him dearly.

If in the beginning of your date you feel that you have to make yourself look more impressive than you really are then what happens if things go well and you continue dating? You may be revealed as being a lying weasel and, even if this was your only lie, it will put into doubt everything else that you said. And how can you then say, “But I swear, everything else was the truth” and expect to be believed.

Colossians 3:9 reads, “Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices.” It is easier to tell the truth because there is only one version. Do not try and fake someone out.


Of course one of the primary purposes of going on a date is to hope that we will both be impressed by each other and like each other. However, in trying to put our best foot forward we oftentimes simply put an overbearing, bragging foot forward. This bragging may be straightforward, obnoxious self-aggrandizing such as how you were able to buy that really expensive car because you have such a high paying job and how you got that job because you were tops in your class and so on. It is like pulling out a wad of bills and peeling off a big bill on the top. Instead you are using your accomplishments in place of the wad.

However this bragging may not even appear in the form of gorilla-like chest thumping. It may be subtler, but it is ostentatious bragging all the same. It may entail slipping in proofs of how wonderful you are and then gauging how duly impressed they are.

So what is the difference between bragging and simply telling about some good things that you have done? With bragging, you force your accomplishments into the conversation even when it is inappropriate. With telling, your accomplishments flow into the conversation. With bragging, you are coming out looking better than others. With telling, you have simply done something worthy of mention. With bragging, the attention is on how great or clever or persistence you are. With telling, the attention is on the deed itself.

        It has been said that one form of advertising that is a liability instead of an asset is a person blowing his own horn and the fellow who blows his horn the loudest is usually in the biggest fog.

Maybe you have accomplished some pretty nifty things. Give it time, those gems will come out. If you want to impress your date with some things about yourself then do it in a less irritating way then by bragging. You can always impress her with your thoughtfulness regarding her. Ask her about herself and show interest in her answers. Bring some nice flowers or upgrade to a nicer restaurant. Tell her how much you liked this date and ask her for another. Impressing someone does not always mean self-braggadocio.

If there is anyone who has the right to brag unceasingly it is God. And yet, as you read the Bible you will notice that He does not do it at all. He only tells what is appropriate for the moment. Let that be a lesson to each one of us.

Avoid excessive disclosure

This involves sharing secrets or aspects of your life that are very personal and complicated. Every one of us has deep, complex issues in our lives. These might be emotional or they might regard some family members. They might involve some crisis in your life or some sins that were severe.

You might think that sharing those skeletons in your closet is a great way to bond with your date. Or you may believe that talking about those terrible setbacks in your life will simply show how open and honest a person you are. Or maybe you want the person to feel sorry for you or to want to help or support you. But what you are really doing is creating a false sense of openness and intimacy for the purpose of trying to establish a connection. Or maybe you are just nervous and you do not know what to talk about so you are just saying the first thing that comes to mind. Either way, do not do it. Your goal is to get to know each other. You are not trying to create a juicier book for a ghostwriter.

One reason why this is bad is because, until the person gets to know you, information can be misinterpreted. You may share about something horrible that happened in the past and unless he knows you well enough to realize that you have indeed grown from it and have put it behind you he might become suspicious and leery and wonder what he is getting into.

Also, the other person is not going on a date with you because she is looking for someone to counsel. He or she is there is have fun; not dispense psychiatric advice.

Stick to simpler topics. Those other things can come out in due time as the relationship develops but your goal is not to set up a test to see how much freakiness the other person can endure. This is not a psychological test. Some people may eat Oreo cookies by twisting the cookie apart and eating the inside first, but you are not an Oreo cookie. So do not twist yourself open and reveal all of your guts from the get-go. Intimacy takes time. Part of the fun of getting to know another person is by getting deeper and deeper into their lives and understanding what makes them tick. But this takes a lot of different pieces. It is a lot like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Each piece gives a clearer picture.

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter”—Proverbs 25:2. Sometimes it is better to let some things stay hidden for a while. Eventually as a relationship deepens and grows you should probably disclose more and more of yourself. Be patient.

Not complimenting

You think that it is great how your date is always so active in church ministries—so tell him that. You think that she is funnier than the donkey in the movie Shrek (and prettier, too)—so tell her that. Everyone likes to be noticed and complimented. But too often we are afraid that if we give a compliment that it will appear that we are being a flatterer or charmer. But it will not appear that way if the compliment is well thought through and is sincere.

        Just as you are hoping that he or she will like and accept you so are they hoping the same thing. Ease some of that tension by being kind and complimenting honestly. This shows that you are paying attention.

1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.”

Avoid rude behavior

What constitutes rude behavior? Flirting while on a date. Showing up late. Waiting in the car and blowing your horn. Bringing an uninvited guest (your niece that you got stuck babysitting or another couple on an unannounced double date). Mouthing off to other people such as waiters. Being unclean or inappropriately dressed. Conveniently forgetting your money and forcing her to pick up the tab. Long conversations on your cell phone.

Do you want to appear considerate or arrogant? Do you want to appear respectful or belligerent? Then choose manners and sensitivity over trying to appear brash and a show-off.

Do not talk about your ex

For whatever reason, this tends to be an all-too-easy mistake that a lot of people make. Maybe it is because you are on a date and so your ex is on your mind. Whatever the reason, steer clear of the subject.

Why should this be diligently avoided?

·         It is a rare person who relishes hearing the excruciating details of how terribly you were treated and misunderstood by that monster.

·         This person is your date; not your therapist.

·         Your interest should be on the person in front of you; not on the person left behind. Your purpose is to bond with your current date; not use them to help you sever the bond with your past dates.

·         It is boring. Your ex might have meant a lot to you, but probably means nothing to this person.


Philippians 3:13 can help us here—“forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead” In His relationship with us, God tells us to take our eyes off of what is behind us and put them on what is ahead of us. This means taking past relationships, learning from them, but then using what we have learned to make the relationship that we are in even that much better.

No one wants to date someone who is dragging the dead corpse or corpses of past relationships into every situation like the chains of a moribund Marley’s Ghost.

Do not put yourself down

Sometimes, when we have a wrong self-esteem, we expect people to put us down and so we feel that we have to beat them to the punch. The result is that we make self-deprecating remarks. Sometimes those remarks may be extremely clever or funny. But here is the rub: nobody wants to date a loser and if you think that you are a loser then others will think the same thing of you. It is important that you come across confident and assured.

But you may say that you are not confident and assured and so how can you act that way? Well, if you are a Christian, then here you are wrong. God does not save people and leave them useless and withered. You may not be confident in yourself but you can always be confident in who and what God has made you.

        Let us just look at one verse and see what we are in God. 1 Peter 2:9, “But you are a chosen race, A royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” In this one verse alone God has said seven things about you.

a)       You are chosen—God specially picked you.

b)       You are a royal priesthood—you are someone who can approach God at any time in full confidence.

c)       You are holy—you may not practice what you are but God has made you holy.

d)       You are God’s possession—you are not just a creation but you are a child of God.

e)       You have an excellent message—you can talk about the glories and wonders of God because you have experienced them first hand.

f)        You have been taken from the darkness where most of the world lies.

g)       And you have been transferred into God’s marvelous light where there are untold blessings.


There are many more scriptures on what God has done for you. He has made you sufficient to do every good deed. He has made you glorious. He has forgiven you, sanctified you, redeemed you, adopted you, and so on. To belittle yourself is to belittle the work that God has done in you.

So if you have a tendency on putting yourself down then stop it now; even if there is a great laugh involved. And, if you are on a date, then especially do not do it.

Do not blame mishaps on the other person

Things will go wrong on a date or in any relationship. That is just how life is. However, it does not help to blame the other person. Learn to deal graciously with problem situations.

You go to a restaurant and the food is lousy. Do not say, “We should have went to the restaurant that I wanted to go to.” Instead make little of it and say, “I guess that we can cross this place off of our list.”

You miscommunicate the time to meet and one person is 30 minutes later than the other. Do not argue as to how your understanding was the correct one. Instead, comment as to how at least you are both here now so let us make it a great evening.

You go to a place for a date and then find out that she hates going to those kind of places. Do not insist that she lead you to believe that she liked those places and that she should have been clearer. You should have made certain and asked in the first place but if you are stuck there then try and make the best of it. Maybe focus on each other rather then on what is around you.

Mistakes will happen. Learn to be gracious. That will carry more weight in the long run anyway than trying always to be right. Arguing with your date is one sure way of guaranteeing no next date.

Do not gossip

You should never maliciously put down another person no matter what the setting, but it is even more dangerous when on a date. Why is that?

·         The person that you are gossiping about may be someone that this other person likes.

·         The other person may wonder that if you are able to talk about others like this then what prevents you from talking about him or her in the same way.

·         It gives a negative feel to the evening.

·         It shows the other person that you are small and petty.

·         It pulls the conversation off of each other and onto someone else.


There is always the temptation to build yourself up by putting others down and it does not take much to give us the slightest excuse to do this. You will never move up if you are continually running other people down. Ephesians 4:31 is a strong commandment—“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”

If you want to bond with another person through the sins or mishaps of others then that will not be a relationship that God will honor and bless.

Do not to confuse attention with love

Frequent phone calls, flowers or gifts, unexpected notes, and so on, these are ways of showing interest, attraction, and sometimes-even love. But do not substitute these displays for love itself. Love will show itself in deeper ways such as sacrifice, faithfulness, acceptance, communication, trust, and encouragement.

We all want to be flaunted over and treated like royalty and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But do not be swept away and blinded by that.

Also, be careful not to assume that just because you are both attracted to each other that, therefore, it was meant to be. It may just lead to a great friendship and nothing beyond that.

Proverbs 31:30 gives us a word of caution—“Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” Do not be swept away by charm and the outer trappings. Ultimately, it is godliness and depth of character that matters.

Giving the person another chance

Disappointments are par for the dating game. The normally reliable restaurant served up a clunker this time. The weather ruined that great walk along the beach. You said the one thing that you were trying so hard not to say all evening.

Things will never go perfectly. You say and do stupid things in life; that will happen. If it was harmless then laugh it off. If it was not then quickly apologize.

Let other people make mistakes also. Be careful about making instant judgments.

You will both probably be nervous on that first date and more relaxed and natural on the subsequent ones. So, unless, it was clear that it was a no-go, then think about giving a second possibility a chance.


You will have problems in relationships if you:

·         Are competitive in your relationships; you must always come out on top

·         Wave your emotions like a flag in everyone’s face

·         Need to always be right

·         Gossip, slander, or are critical of other people

·         Monopolize nearly every conversation

·         Rarely follow the topic that the other person brings up but, instead, talks about only what interests you

·         Are available only when you want to be

·         Share confidential information or secrets that you were entrusted with

·         Borrow money and do not pay it back or borrow possessions and do not return them


Keys to good friendships

        Some friendships just come naturally; some need work. Some friendships last forever; some require a lot of maintenance. Some people seem to be able to make friends without any effort at all; some people struggle to make even one friend.

        The desired result of this section is to take good friendships and make them better and to take those who have no friendships and turn them into people who have some.


I went out to find a friend,

but could not find one there.

I went out to be a friend,

And friends were everywhere.


        Here we will look at some characteristics that will make you a better friend.

Be willing to be the first to open up

In boxing there is a situation where the two fighters just circle each and never throw any punches. Neither one of them wants to take the initiative because they are afraid that the other boxer will get in a good counter punch. This is called “posing.” There may be an occasional flick of a jab but it is usually a soft punch that carries no weight or desire behind it. When this happens frequently it is a dull fight.

Sadly, in relationships this same thing can happen. We can have a relationship that is going nowhere because neither person is willing to take the initiative. Neither one is willing to put themselves into a vulnerable position. So you have a relationship that is dull and shallow.

God wants us to be a people who are willing to be open with our lives. We see this in the Apostle Paul. He said in 2 Corinthians 6:11-13, “Our mouth has spoken freely to you, O Corinthians, our heart is opened wide. You are not restrained by us, but you are restrained in your own affections. Now in a like exchange—I speak as to children—open wide to us also.”

Usually when we want to make an important point to someone we will use their name to ensure their attention. There are only three places in Paul’s letters where he addresses the church’s congregation by name within the text of the letter: 1) Philippians 4:15 where Paul commends the Philippians for sticking with him and supporting him, 2) Galatians 3:1 where Paul chides the Galatians for living by the law rather than by grace, and 3) here in 2 Corinthians where Paul is pleading with the Corinthians to open up to him. This was an important issue to Paul.

The term “opened wide” in the Greek meant that his heart was enlarged; i.e. Paul chose to expand his heart wide enough to give his affections to all of the Corinthians. He was willing to take them all inside; to love them, to care for them, and to share his life with them.

Then he indicts them by saying that the reason why they are restrained around him is not because he has given them any excuse to be tight-lipped. But, rather, the problem is because they are deliberately holding back their affections. And so, he asks them to be as open to him as he is to them.

What is the key here? On what basis was Paul able to ask them to open up to him? It was because he was first open to them. He was not expecting them to do something that he had not done first. So he was able to say, “Now in a like exchange…”

In the same way, in order to develop friendships you must be the one willing to take the initiative. Do not expect everyone to come to you.

I got saved when I was going to college at Kansas State University. The first 7.5 years of my Christianity was spent in the church where I got saved. Eventually, the national leaders of the movement declared themselves to be apostles. Me, not being shy about defending what I think to be Biblical truth, typed a 27 page letter explaining why I did not think apostles were for today. The leaders told me that if I did not like it then I should just leave. Then because of other issues like the associated churches becoming a Shepherding movement I convinced a bunch of people to leave that group and go to other churches. The result of this was that even after I had left the church they excommunicated me (years later they confessed that this excommunication was an error). However, their concept of excommunication was that nobody in the church could ever talk to me again. They could not even acknowledge my existence. They were even told that if they saw me coming down the street that they were to cross over to the other side to avoid me. So here were people whom I spent 7.5 years praying with, worshiping God with, evangelizing with, eating with and now they would not even acknowledge my presence. I felt that this demonstrated that their friendships were all show and insincere. They were friends to me only because they had to be. So I decided that from then on people would have to first approach me and initiate the conversation because then that would prove that they were sincere. Well, for the next several years I did not make one new friend. Finally I saw that this was not going to work and decided to take the initiative again and, as a result, I have made a lot of friends.

The key is that you must determine to be the one who takes the first shot. And if it does not work out then you shrug your shoulders, you move on, and you try again. Like most other things in life, developing good friendships takes practice and patience.

How do you do this? What does this mean?

·         It means being the one who walks up to other people first.

·         It means looking for people who are alone and talking to them.

·         It means learning how to ask questions or say things that will get a conversation going.

·         It means learning the skill of being friendly.

·         It means being the first one willing to share something personal.

·         It means responding with interest to the other person.

·         It means that the more that you do it the better you will become at it.

What does this not mean?

·         It does not mean using this as an opportunity to talk incessantly about yourself. Have you ever been with someone where 90% of every conversation is about them?

·         It does not mean laying your whole life on the table to someone that you just met. That means that you do not walk up to someone and say, “Hi, my name is Bob and I just got out of an institution and my entire life is in a shambles. Do you want to hear why?”

·         It does not mean giving up because it is not going as well as you had hoped.

God is our ultimate example of this. He did not wait for us to come to Him. Instead, He came down and did all that He had to in order to forge a relationship with each one of us.


So ask yourself.

·         Do you have a heart that is clenched as tight as a fist or do you have a heart that grows in response to people?

·         Do you build a stone fortress around your affections or are you willing to be unrestrained in your affections?

·         Are you willing to settle for a life that is safe but empty or are you willing to put up with some discomfort for the sake of the strength that friendships bring?

Understand that not every situation will work out the way that you might have hoped

Sometimes the two of you just do not click. Or that person may not be looking for a new friend at that time. Or that person may be struggling with their own battles and does not really need or want a new friendship. Or sometimes, some people are just a cold fish or are bitter. That does not mean that you are unlovable. It does not necessarily mean that you are a poor friend or a bad person. You cannot take every interaction personally as though everything that someone else says and does is a reflection of you. It is not always all about you. People do have other things going on in their lives and that may affect their ability to get along with someone else; no matter who that person is.

If something is not working out then just let it go and move on. If you want to communicate your displeasure at how things are drifting apart, then fine, go ahead. But do not cling to people like a leech. Move on. Learn from the situation and make new friends.

If you and one other person are the only survivors of a nuclear war and you cannot get along then that is a problem. But until that is the case, there are plenty of other people around. Do not become fixated on one person. You will drive yourself crazy if you think that every relationship has to work out and last forever. You will also drive yourself crazy if you think that every failed relationship is a reflection of you.

What does Jesus say in Matthew 10:14 to His disciples? “And whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake off the dust of your feet.” Shake off the dust; i.e. let go of it. Leave it behind and move on. Not everyone got along with Jesus Christ and He was perfect.

But just because a relationship does not turn out the way that you might want, that does not mean that the whole thing must be chucked. Maybe you can settle very nicely into being casual or close friends and that may be the one of the most secure friendships that you have.

Of course it could be true that it was totally your fault that the relationship fell apart. You must be honest with yourself and not try to cast blame everywhere but inward. Listen to what your friends have to say. Tell them to be honest with you no matter how much it may hurt. Then, if you see how it was your fault, you have a good basis to change.

Learn to listen

People know when you sincerely care about them and one of the surest ways of proving this is by carefully listening to what they are saying. Many people hear what others say but they are not really paying attention. We need to learn to listen to people and then ask appropriate questions based on what they just said. This is a skill that must be developed.

We learn to ask appropriate questions by asking details about what was just said or, if you know the person very well, asking about their feelings. Usually this is not difficult, in fact, most of the time it is extremely simple. The problem is not being able to come up with a follow-up question; it is caring enough to make the effort. For example:

“I just got a new job in Freehold.”

“What are you going to be doing?”

“I’m going to be setting up new computers and networking them together.”

“Have you done a lot of this before? Did you go to school to learn this?”

“I’ve taken some classes and did some of it at my previous job.”

“Is this something that you enjoy doing?”

See how easy that is? However, much of the time the conversation would go more like this.

“I just got a new job in Freehold.”

“That’s great. I hope it works out for you.”

End of that topic.

It is our nature to want to talk about what is on our minds, to voice our opinions, to express our ideas. Proverbs 18:2 says, “A fool does not delight in understanding, but only in revealing his own mind.” A fool does not care about what the other person is saying; he is only waiting for an opportunity to talk. In contrast Proverbs 20:5 says, “A plan in the heart of a man is like deep water, but a man of understanding draws it out.” Notice the distinction between these two verses. The fool only cares about what he has to say and so he lacks in understanding. But a man who learns how to draw out other people will gain understanding.

Then we should go even one step beyond listening and that is remembering. When someone tells you something significant try to remember it. Then the next time you see them ask them about it. One good way to remember this is to pray about it as you are parting company and then pray about it again later.

Who is our best example here? It is God, of course. God loves to listen to our prayers every second of every day. Psalm 116:2 is a good verse for how much God desires our prayers, “Because He has inclined His ear to me, therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live.” That word “inclined” in the Hebrew means to “bend over.” It is like we start to pray to God and He bends over and cups His hand to His ear so as to not miss a single word. How often when someone is talking to us do we look past them to see if there is anything interesting going on behind them? How often does our mind drift and wonder when he is going to stop? God bends over and gives us His full, undivided attention.

This means not interrupting unless it is immediately pertinent to what is being said. This means being willing to give them the lion’s share of the conversation. This means letting them talk even if it seems vastly less important than what you want to say.

Of course, if your goal is to be more of a listener that does not mean never talking. Being a good listener means listening to the other person. That is very different from not talking. The quietest person may never listen to anything that another person is saying. The goal is not to let the other person talk more but to listen to what the other person is saying.

Also, there is a point where someone may simply be yammering only because they like the sound of their own voice. To be a good listener does not necessarily mean having to stand and listen endlessly to a self-absorbed person. There is a point of discernment where you know when to end a conversation.

Other people are not microphones for us to talk in to. They are people with goals and desires and opinions and struggles just like us. Each one of us must be careful not to turn a friend into nothing more than a tape recorder. If you want to be a good friend then learn to listen, learn to remember, and learn to ask.

Be available

This is necessary for two different aspects: 1) in order to get into relationships, and 2) to maintain and improve already existing relationships.

You will never meet people sitting home. God is probably not going to have some wonderful person break down in front of your house and come knocking on your door looking for help. You need to put yourself out where people are. The saying for the lottery goes for finding friends also: “You’ve gotta be in it to win it.”

Proverbs 18:22 says, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the LORD.” To be “found” you have to be in a place where people look. Of course you can always cite some story where a woman was ministering by herself to mountain goats in the Himalayas when some lost hiker stumbled by, they fell in love and got married. But any story like that gets circulated because it is so uncommon.

You need to put yourself in a position to be able to talk to that person you might be interested in or to be seen by that person. I personally put a lot of value in whether or not a person came to things that I was involved in. If she knew that I was running the Singles Ministry but she never came to any of the events then I would assume that she was not interested. I knew one woman who was interested in a guy at her church and when she found out that he ran the church bowling club she joined that club just to increase her odds of meeting him. She did and they eventually got married. In a case closer to home (literally), one woman came to a lot of the events and outreaches that I was running, we started to date, and we got married. The key was that she (Toni) put herself into a position to be noticed and was available for a friendship.

One woman told me that she was not looking because she expected God to drop a husband down in front of her. Unless she wants to marry an impersonator and goes to a show with parachuting Elvis’s I doubt that will ever happen. God does not reward a lack of effort in other areas so why should He do it in the area of marriage? Notice Proverbs 16:9, “The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.” God expects us to be moving; not standing still. If we are doing nothing then God cannot direct our steps to any desirable place or goal. In order to get to anything you have to move. God is not going to move everything to you just because you have put your feet, or maybe in this case your heart, in cement.

But what happens when you find yourself interested in someone? Oftentimes you will go out of your way to do what? —Ignore that person. Why do you do that? Probably because you are afraid that if he or she realizes that you are interested and they do not want that then you will feel rejected. So you do the opposite. You basically try and beat them to the rejection punch. But think about how that tactic usually works out. Let us say that I am interested in some woman but she does not know it. Now let us say that she is getting interested in me also. So now she starts to ignore me. What will I think? I will think that she picked up from me that I am interested in her and that she is not at all interested in me so she is ignoring me to discourage any initiation on my part in asking her out. So instead of attempting to get to know her better I will back off and any possible relationship has been lost.

What do you think would happen? A woman will start to ignore me so I will think, “Wow, she treating me like I’m dirt. She must really like me.” No, I do not think so.

        So the first way of being available is by being around people. It will increase your chance to make new friends, it will increase your opportunities to minister to others and to allow others to minister to you.

        You can do this by going to church on a regular basis, by getting involved in ministries at your church such as singles or outreach ministries, or by participating in ministries that are outside of churches such as food pantries. You can join clubs, go with groups to concerts or other events, or join one of your church’s home groups if they have them. You may be very shy but the more that people see you the more you will get used to each other and the easier it will be to strike up conversations. Do not be scared away just because it does not go well the first time you go to some meeting or event. The first time there everything is new and different: the people, the surroundings, the agenda, and so on. Sometimes it takes a couple of meetings before you start to feel comfortable with everything.


        The second way of being available is with those people who already are your friends. If they call you because they need to talk or they need advice then turn off the TV or put down that magazine. Do not just let the answering machine pick up because you do not want to miss the end of the show. It is for people that Christ came; people must always be our priority right behind God.

        If someone sits alone in church then go over and sit with them and then possibly invite them out to lunch afterwards. Have them over to dinner sometime. And even beyond that, call them up and ask them how they are doing. Take the initiative. Ask them what are some things that you can pray about for them. Pray with them although it does not have to be as dramatic as stopping them in the church foyer and putting your hand on them and praying right then and there.

        If you force people to always be the ones to carry the relationship then soon they will tire and give up. Just as you like to be asked how you are doing so do they. Just as you like to be invited to things so do they. Being a friend means being available. If you put up a wall and make people hammer through it then you are not a friend, you are a project.


However, being available does not mean being in that person’s face all of the time either. This is covered under the section “Do not be a pest.”

It also does not mean giving up quickly. Just because you are interested in someone do not assume that he or she must be on the same page as you are. The other person may have things going on in his life and may not want to get into a new relationship right at that moment. You need to allow people to make that decision. The key is being patient and being content to just be friends for a while if that is what is necessary.

Do not put the burden of making friends on everyone else. You must be available.

        All throughout the scriptures we can see how God seeks us out and makes Himself available to us. Psalm 139:7-10

Where can I go from Thy Spirit? Or where can I flee from Thy presence?

If I ascend to heaven, Thou art there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, Thou art there.

If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,

Even there Thy hand will lead me, And Thy right hand will lay hold of me.

Jeremiah 23:23

“Am I a God who is near,” declares the LORD, “and not a God far off?”

Matthew 28:20b

“lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”


God is always available to us. He is near to us. He does not make us hunt Him down. This is our example.

Do not return anger or digs in like manner

Someone attacks you or gives you a little dig. The attack could be unwarranted and mean. Right to your face he may call you names or impugn your motives or make false accusations. Or the dig could be subtle. Things like “You should know better” or “No wonder why you’re… “ or “That was really dumb.” When this happens we want to pounce right away and clamp our teeth onto their neck.

How did Jesus react to these little digs? One example is in Matthew 4:3-4, “And the tempter [Satan] came and said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.’” What was the little dig here? “Hey, if you’re so high and mighty; if you’re so special; if you’re such a big deal; then do this.” But here was Jesus’ response,  “But He answered and said, ‘It is written, “MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.”’” Satan came at Jesus with that little dig, “If You are the Son of God…” But what did Jesus do? Did He jump right in and defend Himself and say, “I am the Son of God and I don’t have to prove it to you!” Actually, He did not even address it. He just let it go by. Instead, He addressed the main issue.

Another example is in Matthew 27:39-43, “And those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads, and saying, ‘You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.’ In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking Him, and saying,  ‘He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him now come down from the cross, and we shall believe in Him. HE TRUSTS IN GOD; LET HIM DELIVER Him now, IF HE TAKES PLEASURE IN HIM; for He said, “I am the Son of God.”’” They abused Him. They mocked Him. They made fun of Him. Again, what did Jesus say in return? –Nothing.

Proverbs 26:4-5 reads, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him. Answer a fool as his folly deserves, lest he be wise in his own eyes.” How is a fool wise in his eyes here? It is because he just put you down with some snide remark and what did you do? –You fell right down to his level and responded in kind. Therefore, in his mind, you proved that you are just as low as he made you out to be. So he was right.

The temptation is always to jump right in and defend yourself and to give digs in return. Do not do that. If you have something to say then communicate it in a mature, thoughtful manner.

Too often we want people to pay and pay immediately for something that they said to us that we did not like. As hard as it is we need to learn to keep our mouths shut at these times. Proverbs 15:28 gives us good advice, “The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.” We should be able to leave the conversation, think about what was said, and then get with that person at a later time and discuss things in a more reasonable manner.

There have been many times in my life that someone gave me a dig and I had to bite my lip to keep from nailing him back. But by the next day or maybe even an hour later I am so glad that I did not retaliate. Sometimes I would get back to that person if I felt that they were simmering something against me. But most of the time I did not reply at all because it appeared that they were merely being momentarily irritable or perverse. Some things are better off swallowing and forgetting about. We must learn to be gracious even in the midst of adversity.

1 Peter 2:19-23 is counsel worth taking to heart, “For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a man bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.”

When it comes to hostile relationships or situations it says here that Christ left us an example. What was that example? When He was reviled; He did not revile in return. When He was suffering because of others; He did not threaten them. He left the judgment to His Father. This is our example. And what is the point of an example? For us to do it.

This does not mean, however, that you should be a doormat. Sometimes when someone is attacking you it might be necessary to stop them and have them check their attitude. Are they out of control? Are they red hot with anger? Are they being terribly cutting and vile? You do not have to allow them to continue on and on like that. But what it does mean is that you should not stoop to their level of name-calling. Deal with it in a gracious manner. If that means dealing calmly and maturely by giving your perspective then do that. If that means being silent; then be silent. But if that means simply saying, “We can continue this when you are in a better frame of mind” and then walk away, then do that.

If you always have to get in the last dig, if you need to always get the other person back immediately when they do something that you do not like, then you will lose friends. Everyone says stupid things at times. And sometimes people are just under stress and you are the one unlucky enough to be in their way at that time. Learn to take the hit on the cheek and, if necessary, even turn the other cheek.

Do not judge other people.

We are an insecure people. Because we know our weaknesses and our sinful thoughts and motives we sometimes think that everyone else has figured them out also. This can make us guarded and edgy. It can also make us think that we are able to figure everyone else out also. Sometimes this is true. Just as we do not always fool people so it is that many times we can see through other people’s antics. But many times we go beyond the facts and presume other people’s attitudes and motives in a negative way. Sometimes we do this because we think that we are so clever. Sometimes we do it because the only way that we can feel good about ourselves is to put people below us. And sometimes we are nothing more than malicious.

When we develop false, negative impressions of other people we are judging them. God gives us a strong warning in Matthew 7:1-2 about doing this, “"Do not judge lest you be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.” If you are quick to form sweeping character flaws about other people based on mere tidbits of information then, in the same manner, that is how you will be judged.

How can you tell if you are judging someone? Here are eight possible tests. If you fail at any of them then there is a good chance that you are guilty of being judgmental.

a)       Do the facts sustain the conclusion that I have drawn?

·         Can I honestly agree that I have formed my conclusion based on all of the facts available to me and that I am not overly emphasizing those that are negative and de-emphasizing those that contradict the opinion that I want to form?

·         Am I being fair?

b)       His perceived faults make me feel superior to him.

·         Do you now feel spiritually better than that person? Do you think, “Thank you, God, that I’m not like him”?

·         Or might you think, “Even I’m not that bad!”

c)       I am using his faults to justify my own shortcomings.

·         Do you ever have this attitude, “I thought that this one sin in my life was pretty bad but look at him. If anyone has to work on their life it’s him; not me”?

d)       Do I want to see him publicly exposed, ridiculed, and punished?

·         Do you hope that others see what he is doing or find out about it and then take him to task?

·         Are you glad when he fails at something so that you can blame his failure as being directly caused by his sin?

·         You know that gossip is wrong so you cannot just blurt out your suspicions. So you lead the conversation so that the other person brings up his name first. Then that somehow enables you to open up the floodgates of gossip.

·         Do you find yourself telling others about his sin hoping that they will agree with you as to how big of a louse he is?

·         Do you find yourself telling others about his sin hoping that they will then go and tell even more people?

e)       Do you hope that his influence is reduced?

·         If he is in a ministry do you hope that he drops out?

·         Do you hope that he fails or is at least admonished at his job?

·         Do you hope that his friendships fall apart?

f)        Do you find yourself reviewing his past shortcomings?

·         You start thinking about everything wrong that the other person said or did no matter how trivial it may have seemed at the time. What was insignificant then has now become a terrible horror.

g)       Have you taken his several weaknesses or sins and parlayed them into concluding that he is an overall evil person?

·         Everyone sins and has sins. Are you making his sins to be bigger than anyone else’s so as to vilify him as much as possible?

·         Are you taking faults in one area of his life and drawing conclusions in other non-related areas?

·         Are you trying to make him out to be as bad as possible rather than wanting him to change and succeed?

h)       Do you feel that whatever he has done is so bad that you can never forgive him?

·         Are you hoping that he does not repent so that you can continue to despise him?

·         What this person did was so horrible that you cannot find it in yourself to forgive him.


When you judge someone else, God is basically saying, “OK, I’m a God of mercy and I want you to be a person of mercy. I’m a God of forgiveness and I want you to be a person of forgiveness. I’m a God of patience and I want you to be a person of patience. But since you prefer to use your own standard of judgment then that’s the one that I’ll use with you also since it’s the one that you seem to like so much.”

If you are a critical, judgmental person then do not be surprised if you find yourself being isolated. Nobody likes a back stabber.


But people do sin and people do make terrible mistakes. The Bible commands us to rebuke those who sin. To not judge does not mean acting as though no one ever does wrong and ignoring it when it does happen. The key is knowing the difference between discernment and judgement. Discernment involves wisdom and the love of God. Judgment involves a negative attitude and wrong desires. Here are some ways that we can test to see if we are showing discernment or judgement when we think that we see sin in someone’s life.






Discernment is to perceive something obscure or concealed; to distinguish using wisdom. Discernment seeks out all of the necessary facts until all crucial factors and people are understood.

Proverbs 18:17, “The first to plead his case seems just, until another comes and examines him.”

Judgment forms quick opinions based on little information no matter how sketchy.

Proverbs 14:15, “The naive believes everything, But the prudent man considers his steps.”


Discernment is thoughtful and prayerful in considering the situation before drawing any conclusions.

Proverbs 15:28a, “The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer…”

Judgment wants to broadcast its conclusions right away without thinking or prayer.

Proverbs 15:28b, “But the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.”


Discernment tries to take into account the entire picture to try and determine a reason.

Judgment sees the negative and nothing but the negative.


Discernment comes with gentleness and humility knowing that sin is crouching at his own door.

Galatians 6:1, “Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted.”

Judgment wants to humiliate the person. It goes in with both guns blasting.

2 Samuel 16:5-7, “When King David came to Bahurim, behold, there came out from there a man of the family of the house of Saul whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera; he came out cursing continually as he came. And he threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David; and all the people and all the mighty men were at his right hand and at his left. And thus Shimei said when he cursed, "Get out, get out, you man of bloodshed, and worthless fellow!”


Discernment is willing to offer solutions to the problem.

Judgment only wants to point out the negative.


Discernment is willing to talk to the person directly without spreading gossip.

Judgment oftentimes draws conclusions based on second and third-hand information and delights in gossip.



God never tramples on us. We must never trample on another person.

Be loyal

An English publication offered a prize for the best definition of a friend. Thousands of entries were received and the one that was given first prize was this: “A friend is the one who comes in when the whole world has gone out.”[3]

 Do not abandon a friend when they have nothing more to give to you but, rather, need something from you.

·         Do not abandon a friend because they are not the most popular or the best looking.

·         Do not abandon a friend if they become unbearable when they are going through a deep trial.

·         Do not abandon a friend just because nobody may particularly like her or if others are telling you to dump her.


We are going to look at three Biblical examples of loyalty. The first example is Ruth. We can read in Ruth 1:14-18 where Naomi had just told her two daughters-in-law to leave her while she returns to Bethlehem. “And they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. Then she said, ‘Behold, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and her gods; return after your sister-in-law.’ But Ruth said, ‘Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the LORD do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.’ When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.”

Naomi, because of the death of her husband and two sons, was left with no one except her two daughters-in-law. She was on her own. She was in great sorrow. She was impoverished. She was old and could not work and because she was too old to have children she would probably never find a husband who could support her and Ruth. If Ruth came back with her to Bethlehem, the odds were that Ruth would never remarry because it was unlikely that an Israelite would marry a Moabite woman. These were not very encouraging circumstances for Ruth to stay with Naomi. Probably most people would have counseled Ruth to ditch her. Yet Ruth was loyal and God rewarded her. Ruth did remarry and she became the great-grandmother of David and from her line came the Savior of the world.

The second example is Ittai. The situation is where David’s son, Absalom, pulled a coup and David had to flee with a small group of followers to save his life. As they were fleeing David stopped and took stock of the 600 men who had come with him. One of them was Ittai. We can pick up the story in 2 Samuel 15:19-22, “Then the king said to Ittai the Gittite, ‘Why will you also go with us? Return and remain with the king, for you are a foreigner and also an exile; return to your own place. You came only yesterday, and shall I today make you wander with us, while I go where I will? Return and take back your brothers; mercy and truth be with you.’ But Ittai answered the king and said, ‘As the LORD lives, and as my lord the king lives, surely wherever my lord the king may be, whether for death or for life, there also your servant will be.’ Therefore David said to Ittai, ‘Go and pass over.’ So Ittai the Gittite passed over with all his men and all the little ones who were with him.”

Here was the situation where Ittai had just joined up with David and David was telling him to go back. As a foreigner, Ittai was not obligated to serve anyone and so he was told that he should go back and wait to see whomever God would finally set up as king. Then Ittai could serve under that person without any fear of having made a wrong choice and then suffering for it. But Ittai did not make the most comfortable choice. He did not hedge his bets to see who would be the winner. He was not fickle.

What was the result of his loyalty? We can read in 2 Samuel 18:1-2, “Then David numbered the people who were with him and set over them commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds. And David sent the people out, one third under the command of Joab, one third under the command of Abishai the son of Zeruiah, Joab's brother, and one third under the command of Ittai the Gittite.” When David was fleeing from Saul, Ittai remained loyal to David. Ittai could have called him a loser and left him. He could have taken the more convenient route and went home leaving David to fend for himself. He could have concluded that since Absalom was the king that the most expedient thing would be to provide his services to Absalom where he could get the quickest and most assured gain for his skills. But he did not. He chose uncertainty over assurance. He chose hardship over convenience. But most importantly, he chose loyalty over expediency. And David rewarded him as one of his most trusted friends and greatest supports. And through Ittai, God accomplished His purposes. Ittai stayed with the one who was struggling and in confusion and, as a result, he helped to make David the victor. He was not content to just be a tag-along. He was active in helping out his friend and in helping him to overcome his rough times.

And that is what God wants us to be like. God does not want us to dump our friends when their hard times make us uncomfortable. God does not want us to dump our friends when their side has dwindled down to a precious few. God does not want us to dump our friends so that we can step back and then choose the winner. God wants us to stay with that friend through the struggles and confusion and do what we can to make them a winner again.

Joseph Roux in Meditations of a Parish Priest said, “What is love? Two souls and one flesh; friendship? Two bodies and one soul.”[4]

Our third example is that most perfect example of loyalty—that of God. Hebrews 13:5 says, “Let your character be free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, ‘I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU’” What is the purpose of money? So that we can have things that will make our life livable and comfortable. But what is God saying here? “Do not love money for what it can offer because what I have to offer is even better. Money cannot give peace of mind; but I can give peace of mind. Money cannot give you an assurance of intimacy; but I can give you assurance of intimacy. Money cannot give you joy that goes right down into your bones; but I can give you that kind of joy.” And on top of all of that it is guaranteed and forever because He said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.”

Second Timothy 2:13 is a verse that demonstrates God’s loyalty, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful; for He cannot deny Himself.” Even if our faith fails, God will still stick by our side.

Do not make your friendships to be only ones of convenience. As it says in Proverbs 18:24, be a “friend who sticks closer than a brother.” You will find great reward.

Do not be a pest

Proverbs 25:17 reads, “Let your foot rarely be in your neighbor's house, lest he become weary of you and hate you.” Another more familiar way of putting it would be “Don’t wear out your welcome.” A person who does not have many friends may find someone who will listen to them and be with them. For a person who is a social outcast, or at least perceives himself to be, this can be exhilarating. But a problem can occur when that person (or you) goes overboard and crowds their newfound friend’s time and/or space

        How might this happen? One way might be by calling once or even more than once a day. I knew someone who had spent all afternoon taking another woman, who did not have many friends, shopping. Only 30 minutes after dropping the woman off at home she got a phone call from her, “So, what’s new?” How much could be new; only a half an hour had gone by?

I had a friend once who would call me almost every night and tell me about what was going on with him. It got to the point where I dreaded the ringing of the phone. Sometimes you need to step back a bit and see if the other person will initiate a call.

        Another way that this can be a problem is to frequently drop by unannounced. For some people this is not a problem. For others, though, it is a great inconvenience. It may mean a sudden change of plans.

        Overstaying a welcome can easily cause a problem. One guy who had nothing to do would get invited to a picnic and then either stay late into the night long after everyone else had left or would even ask if he could sleep over since it was too late to drive home.

Even if you have a great relationship with that person that does not mean that you are wanted there all of the time. You may love chocolate truffles but that does not mean that you would want to eat them every day. Well, that might not be a good example. Let us try instead: you may love meatloaf but you would not want to eat it for supper every day of your life. Proverbs 25:16 says, “Have you found honey? Eat only what you need, lest you have it in excess and vomit it.” Even a good thing can become too much if it is over done.

Of course some people can talk to each other ten times a day and not grow weary of each other and that is great. But the point is that you need to be careful that you are not in your friend’s house or on your friend’s phone too much. Be sensitive to the situation. Weigh out how often they return your calls. And if that person does not want to talk to you every day then do not pout and assume that they, therefore, never want to talk to you. Even Jesus needed time alone apart from His disciples.

If you expect mercy then give mercy

We expect others to understand that we are sinners and that we have struggles and so they should understand this and show us mercy when we fail. We hope that they will let our ill temper or our stupid remark blow by with nary a trace. We expect them to agree with the sentiment, “Look I’m only human. We all make mistakes. You should be understanding and just drop it.”

But if they do something similar to us! Ho, boy! Tie down the roof! “How can he say that to me? I don’t have to take that kind of garbage!” “What is wrong with her? That’s it! I’ve had enough!”

When we say something hurtful we want people to realize, “I’m just one person struggling with the weight of the world on my shoulders. God is merciful, so should you be.” But when they say something that hurts us it is more like, “They are as demons spawned from Hell! Even God cannot look upon them so how can I?”

Psalm 37:21 is a verse that is usually referred to as dealing with money but its general principle can be applied to many things, “The wicked borrows and does not pay back, but the righteous is gracious and gives.” The wicked expects from others and then does not give anything in return, but the righteous gives freely. This is its general principle. It can apply to money, mercy, grace, or compassion. This verse could be reworded, “The wicked wants mercy [or grace or compassion] but does not give any back; but the righteous gives mercy freely.”

Matthew 7:12 is referred to as the golden rule, “Therefore, however you want people to treat you, so treat them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” If you want people to show you mercy then you had better show them mercy. If you want people to understand how the stupid or insensitive things that you say are not malicious then you make every attempt to understand that the stupid or insensitive things that they say are not malicious. If you are having a bad day and everyone knows it but you expect them to forget it by the next day then you had better be willing forget other people’s bad days by the next day also. God does not allow it any other way.

In Matthew 6:12 in the “Lord’s Prayer” God says, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” In this prayer, God is commanding us to tell Him that He should treat us as we treat others. That can be rather scary. Maybe if we understood this better we would not be so eager to pray like this.

In Matthew 18:23-31 there is a story where a slave owed his king a tremendous amount of money, but the king showed him compassion and forgave him his debt. However, another slave owed this first slave a very small amount of money. But the first slave choked him and threw him into jail. He showed him no mercy or compassion. We can pick up the story in Matthew 18:32-33, “Then summoning him, his lord said to him, 'You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you entreated me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, even as I had mercy on you?’” And then the king punished him severely.

In this story, one man, who was the king, said, “I showed you mercy. I showed you compassion. I forgave you. But you couldn’t do the same in return? When you blew it I let off of the hook. But when someone else blew it you took them to task!” The king, who represents God, was angry because the first slave hoped for and received mercy but he was unwilling to show the same to another person.

If you sin against someone no matter why or what caused it or what you are going through you still need to repent and ask forgiveness. But if someone sins against you then be quick with mercy. When you are able to do this then you will be amazed at how God will pour out His abundance on you. Do not expect more from others than what you are willing to give back in return.

I have seen many friendships break up because one person is cranky and expects others to always understand what he is going through but then would snap at others when they did something that he did not like.

Do not defend yourself at another’s expense

There will be times when it will be necessary to do something that will hurt or disappoint another person. This might be where you are dating someone and you believe that the best thing to do would be to break up. Or maybe you are running a ministry and you have to ask someone to step down from assisting. When this situation occurs you hate to look like the bad guy and you do not want others to think that you are an insensitive louse. So, to save face, you might first set up the other person so that it will make it look like it was their fault so that you will be spared.

If you are breaking up then you might try to make it appear as though he or she had all of these faults that you had never realized and, though you gave it your best shot, you just could not see it ever working. Instead, accept your share in the situation.

Or if you know that some situation is going to make you both look bad then do not set it up so that they will be the one who takes the fall and you escape unscathed. Do not leave someone out there twisting in the wind. Be loyal to that person. Place that person’s feelings above even your own reputation and then let God raise you up. So many times I have seen two people get themselves into a mess, but one of them walks away and tells others how that whole fiasco was the other person’s fault—even when that was not true.

There is a famous story in the Bible where two people blew it and then tried to blame others. They were Adam and Eve and they ate the fruit that God told them not to. In Genesis 3:11-13 we can see what happened when God confronted them. “And He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?’ And the man said, ‘The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.’ Then the LORD God said to the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’ And the woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’”

What did God say about their trying to pass the blame? –Nothing. He simply addressed their sin. God knows our hearts and He knows our sins to the fullest. We are not going to slip anything past Him. So when you try and escape from blame by pointing your finger at the other person God is not fooled. But now instead of merely having to deal with your part in the situation, which may not have even been wrong, you now have to confront your sin of unjustly trying to lay all of the guilt at the feet of another.

So many people have lost friends because they are always trying to come out of every situation smelling like a rose. Be willing to take the shots that you deserve. Do not throw someone else in front of the bullet. People will not respect phony spotlessness, but they will respect humility.

Do not force Christians to meet higher expectations

I have heard so many times over the years Christians saying, “I just can’t trust Christians. I can trust my non-Christian friends more than I can trust my Christian friends.” Why do people say that? Is it because Christians are more untrustworthy than non-Christians? Is it because Christians are sneakier? Are they less sincere? That will certainly be true for some Christians. Just because someone is a Christian that does not mean that they are not lazy or self-centered or gossips. But that is probably not the real reason for this attitude.

Let us take a look at Colossians 3:12-13. “And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.” This verse is exclusively about how we should treat each other in the church. And what words does God use?


He tells us to have



Because Christians can be hurting and suffering and in confusion.


Because Christians can be needy.


Because Christians can be overbearing.


Because Christians can be vulnerable and fragile.


Because Christians can drive you crazy sometimes with their stupidity, with their self-centeredness, and with their weaknesses.

Bear with one another

Because Christians can be intolerant at times.

Forgive each other

Because Christians can sin against you.


What is the basis for commanding us to have this kind of heart? It is because the Lord has already and continues to have this heart towards us. God never asks us to be something that He is not Himself.

Jude 1:22 says, “And have mercy on some, who are doubting;” Christians have doubts. Christians have struggles. Christians have sins. Christians will blow it.

It is interesting to look up all of the verses in the epistles that talk about how we should act towards “one another.” These admonishments are meant for fellow believers; they are meant for those in the church. Following the same format as we did for Colossians 3:12-13 we can see what God has said.


To “one another” we should

Why? Because…


Give preference

Christians can be self-absorbed

Think of others before you think of yourself, let them speak first, show them interest first

Be of the same mind

Christians can be divisive

Do not be deliberately contrary, do not treat some as more contemptible than others


Christians can be unlovable

See people as God sees them and then be to them as Jesus would

Not judge

Christians can be judgmental

See the section on “Do not judge other people”

Build up

Christians can falter

Praise people for the good that they do, work with them on those areas where they are weak


Christians can hold others in contempt

Do not categorize people, if they are not as smart or rich or popular or attractive or socially adept as others still treat them as one for whom Christ died and loves


Christians can sin

Obey Galatians 6:1


Christians can be snobbish

Be friendly to all, ignore no one, never give anyone the cold shoulder

Do not sue

Christians can be greedy or arrogant

Work things out, talk to each other, get an arbitrator

Wait for

Christians can be insensitive

Do not grab the best before the others arrive

Show the same care for

Christians can be prejudiced

Give the same to those who can give back as those who cannot, do not exclude or belittle anyone because they are outside of your group

Not challenge

Christians can be wrongly competitive

Rejoice with those whom God has blessed more than you, let others get the promotion, the recognition, and the praise without jealousy

Not envy

Christians can be envious

Rejoice with those whom God has blessed, be content with what God has given to you

Show forbearance

Christians can be irritating

Do not respond in kind to a harsh remark, do not give anyone the cold shoulder, do not disdain someone because they have an annoying habit

Speak the truth

Christians can lie or be deceptive

Always speak what is right even if it diminishes your reputation

Be kind

Christians can cruel and hurtful

Do not belittle, snap at, or injure someone with your words, help others who are needy even to your own sacrifice, do not gossip

Be subject to

Christians can act superior

Be the first to serve others, do not just sit around and wait for others to serve you first, defer to other’s opinions or wishes if you do not see any good reason to disagree

Regard others as more important than ourselves

Christians can be egotistical

Put other people’s desire, goals, and needs above your own


Christians can hurt and be confused

Be a good listener, pray with them, offer advice where it can help


Christians can be discouraged or depressed

Support them with words and/or actions, be there for them

Live in peace

Christians can be very annoying

Do not harass, be friendly, do them favors, seek their good

Seek after that which is good for

Christians can be spiteful

Ask for God’s blessings upon them and you give what would help them the most


Christians can be lazy

Help them make goals and do what you can to enable them to achieve those goals

Do not speak against

Christians can gossip

Do not tell others about someone else’s shortcomings

Do not complain

Christians can be grumblers

If you are not sincerely seeking a solution then do not condemn other people or circumstances

Confess your sins

Christians can be proud and act perfect

If you have sinned against another then humble yourself before them


Christians can forget about God

Pray with them, pray for them, pray frequently

Be hospitable

Christians can want to take and not receive

Have people over for lunch or dinner, lodge temporary visitors at your house


If Christians were perfect then we would not need these commands. God would only have to tell us how to deal with those self-centered, sinful, evildoers in the world. But Christians can commit the same sins as other people. The church is not full of perfect people; the church is full of sinners and a lot of Christians can grind on us. Of course the same is true for our friendships and our marriages. To obey these commands we need grace, we need the Holy Spirit, and we need to pray a lot.

The problem is not that Christians are worse than non-Christians but that we expect more from them. We hold Christians to a higher standard because we think that they should already be everything that God wants them to be.

Many relationships and marriages have failed because one person put unreasonable expectations onto the other person. And instead of being willing to work with that person, instead of taking the time to make that person more like Christ, instead of being patient and forbearing they want that person to be everything that they expect them to be and they want it now. Well, you know what? That will never happen.

When you have those expectations then you will put a strain on the relationship. You will focus on those areas that you do not like and you will take their slowness to change as a personnel offense and as a lack of concern for your feelings and desires. The result will be that you will become resentful and demanding.

Quite a number of years ago there was a button going around Christians circles with the letters

“PBPGINFWMY.” What it stood for was, “Please Be Patient, God Is Not Finished With Me Yet.” We need to constantly keep that in mind with or without a button to remind us.

For those Christians who seem to be so terrible: Are you praying for them? Have you humbly gone to them with your concerns and possibly even reproved them? Are you willing to work with them to make them more like Christ? Or are you just complaining about them to others? Are you gossiping about them? Are you just belittling them in your mind?

The only person that you should hold to higher expectations is yourself. For everyone else, apply Colossians 3:13 and all of the “one another” verses. It will do wonders for your friendships.

Be genuine

How would you like it if you dated someone for a while and then found out that a lot of what they were about was merely show and window-dressing? You would feel cheated and deceived. So you should not do that to others.

What does it mean to be phony?

§         It means acting more spiritual than you really are.

§         It means making yourself out to be more important or wealthier than you really are.

§         It is when you lie about your age or your job or your education.

§         It is making believe that you are interested in something that you are not just because the other person is.

§         It is making believe that you are an expert at something that you are not.

§         It is trying too hard to be funny or intellectual or godly.


If you do not feel confident in presenting your true self then change those things that you think are unappealing. Being phony is like being a worm on a hook. You will look interesting for a while but eventually you will stab the other person with the barbed hook that you have been hiding and then the other person will rightfully run away. Unless you are really, really good you will eventually give yourself away anyway. Most people are not that easily fooled. In communication the actual words make up 7% of the message, the tone of voice makes up 38% and the nonverbal or body language makes up 55%.[5] Do you really think that you will be able to fake all three all of the time?

Be positive

Be positive about yourself, be positive about others, and be positive about life. If there is one thing that will wear people down it is someone who is always critical. We all have struggles; life is rarely smooth sailing for anybody. So what we do not need is someone putting hooks in us and trying to pull us down even further. It has been said that “misery loves company,” but I think that it is more true that “misery makes company.”

Do not put yourself down. Nobody wants to be with a loser and if you portray yourself as one then you will turn the other person off. And do not paint yourself as a sad sack so that someone will go out with you because they pity you. That is not how to build a wonderful relationship. People are attracted to confidence so be confident in yourself. If you have to dress up more fashionably then do so. There is nothing wrong with that. If you have to exercise more to trim up then set up a scheduled program. If you feel good about yourself then others will also feel good about you. But if you feel lousy about yourself then others will feel lousy about you, too.

Some people put themselves down all of the time because they are wanting to beat others to the punch. But if you can learn to think more positively about yourself then other people’s slings will not affect you nearly as much, if at all. Proverbs 26:2 reads, “Like a sparrow in its flitting, like a swallow in its flying, so a curse without cause does not alight.” If someone calls you a loser but you know that in God’s sight you are anything but that then that remark will not have any affect. Oftentimes the kid at school who is picked on the most is the one who reacts the most. It is no fun to pick on someone who is able to confidently shrug it off and walk away.

Do not put others down. People love gossip. They love to hear what scandal is going on. When they hear about other people’s failures it makes their own misgivings seem that much more justifiable. For most people the only way that they can feel better about themselves is by having others dragged beneath them. Of course this is wrong. We should feel good about ourselves because of what God has made us.

But some people love to demean others. They may attract people who want to listen but they will not attract friends. For someone who puts down others it is only a matter of time before you become their fodder. Therefore, everyone will be hesitant to share any part of their life with this type of person. When others gossip about someone else then you defend that person or if it really was clearly a sin that is being talked about then ask the gossips if they are going to help that person. Too much of the world is filled with backbiting and ridicule. God wants someone who will support and encourage others. You be that person.

Do not put down everything all of the time. People get tired of hearing how lousy your job is, how lousy the church is, how lousy your neighbors are, how lousy your health is, how lousy your finances are, how lousy your circumstances are and so on. You probably got tired reading that sentence. Imagine how wearying it is to hear that from someone all of the time? I know several people who are like this and I get tired of hearing it. They are not interested in remedying anything; they just like to complain about it. It gets to the point where I do not even want to bring up a new subject because I know that is just new fodder for them to rail at. I get tired of trying to defend or explain everything.

If you are critical like this then stop it. This does not mean becoming a Pollyanna and seeing everything through rose-colored glasses. But it does mean learning to see that apart from sin and evil most things do have a positive side that can be discussed for once.

If you struggle making or keeping friends then some time listen to your conversation. Are you frequently putting down yourself or others or everything in general? If so, then maybe that is your main problem. “When you’re smiling the whole world smiles with you” may be overly cliched but it goes a lot further to making friends then being continually glum.

There was a woman who had been severely burned about her face. She was quite disfigured. But when people saw her they thought that she was very attractive and did not even remember the scars. Why was that? It was because she was always smiling and cheerful. That is what people saw and remembered. May this be what people remember about all of us.


You will have success if you:

·         Read your Bible every day

·         Pray every day

·         Attend and are involved in a Bible believing church

·         Actively seek to meet the needs of others

·         Sincerely care about other people

·         Worship and reverence God often

·         Always seek to do what is right even if it is more difficult

·         Repent when you are wrong and forgive when you have been wronged

·         Share God’s way of salvation with others


Foundations for deep relationships

        As friendships deepen they become broader, more vulnerable, more committed, and more sacrificial. These are all qualities that cannot stand on their own. In order to last they must rest on a solid foundation. The following attitudes are that foundation and must be present and growing for a relationship to sustain. They may not all be at the same level but they must all be present to some degree.

        Sometimes these attitudes may exist as mere emotions; i.e. you feel understanding or you may feel loving or patience. But ultimately you must be able to choose to be these qualities even when you do not feel like it. Emotions can change like the weather. You may love someone so much one day that you feel that you cannot live without him or her. By the next week it has settled down to a pitter-pat of your heart. The following week you are distracted by some other pressing needs and it is given hardly a thought. But through all of those weeks you still must make the choice to love but not just as an emotion but as a choice and as a desire.

        We do not expand and deepen these attitudes by sheer luck. You will never wake up some day and suddenly be trustworthy. Consistency will not sneak up on you. You will not slide unconsciously into being an understanding person. These things require an effort. They require work. They must be built through time by knowing, understanding, and making right choices. It will usually involve more character development on our own part than in changing the other person. And as we develop these traits we will become more like the character of God who has all of these attitudes in completeness and perfection.

Pray about each of these areas and ask the Holy Spirit to help you with them.


        To trust someone is to be firmly confident in that person’s character to be confidential, reliable, wise, and sensitive to your emotions, needs, opinions, plans, and goals. What are some aspects of trust?

Confidential. When you trust someone you are willing to share personal matters that are important to you knowing that they will not take that information to someone else. There will never be a sense of betrayal.

Reliable and faithful. They are always there for you; to comfort you in sorrow and to rejoice with you in your time of joy. They will not ignore you or abandon you because other friends are around.

Wise. You can trust that their counsel will come from a godly perspective. If they do not know an answer you can be assured that they will not fake it.

Sensitive. They understand who you are and why you make the decisions that you do. You know that they will never deliberately be cruel or hurtful. They will not be critical but will correct you with humility and gentleness.

Honest. You can trust that person to be honest with you. They will reprove you when you have sinned. They will never act one way around you when you are alone together but differently when around a group of friends. They will not tell you what you want to hear but what you need to hear.

Responsible and dependable. When you ask them to do you a favor you know that they will make every effort to do it on time and to do it right. They will never come up with phony excuses. They will never leave you hanging.

Confidence. You know that they will do their best concerning you and not just when it is convenient for them. You know that they are not just using you for their own ends.

Fidelity. In a marriage you are confident that your partner will not be at all tempted into giving his or her emotions, affections, or body to another.


        Trust is important because you know that they will always be there to catch you when you fall. You do not have to keep one eye on them.

Without trust there can never be openness. People who do not trust others are always suspicious; they are always putting up walls and keeping everything tucked away close to themselves. They are like a man in a rainstorm with no umbrella who tightly holds valuable papers under his coat.

Trust always involves a certain amount of risk. People will disappoint you. That is an unfortunate price to pay, but the rewards of being able to share your heart with someone that you can trust is far greater.


        Consistency is not easy predictability. Consistency is the confidence that the person will not unexpectedly and without reason radically change behavior, morals, or mood. Of course people do change over time and, on a smaller scale, people can be affected by health, weather, circumstances, relationships and so on. But these changes are generally within a reasonable range. However, we will find it difficult to become close to someone who is all over the place on areas that are important to us.

        We will push away from the person who is kind and thoughtful in most areas but then will quickly accuse and attack when they are inconvenienced. How many of us recoil when our favorite preacher is found to be committing adultery? What about the father who reads the Bible at the dinner table and is so pious in church but then rages at his wife for every little thing? We can understand people being in different moods but it is difficult to visit someone who is sweet one day, terribly cranky the next, and depressed on another. That is like playing a slot machine—you may hit a winner this time but the next time you lose.

        When we approach God we do not have to worry about whether He will like us today and accept us into His presence. We do not have to timidly approach Him with stammering and quivering afraid that He might be in one of “those moods” and decide to rip us to shreds. Instead Hebrews 4:16 reminds us, “Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.”

        How can we be consistent?

        Not letting our moods run uncontrolled. We may feel like lashing out at everyone who is nearby, but knowing that this is wrong we instead choose to be kind. This does not mean being a big phony, but it does mean controlling our temper, being especially careful to hold our tongue, and perhaps getting off alone to pray.

        By trying to do what is right in all situations. We should not talk about how much we love God but then curse our neighbor. We should not oppress others when we can get away with it, gossip under the guise of prayer, be prejudiced against people different from us, or give generously at church but steal from our job. We should apply the Bible in all circumstances and not just when it does us the most good.

        By exhibiting the same morals in private as we do in public. We should not have a “church face” and a “home face.” We should not treat someone better in public because we want to have a good reputation. We should not condemn others for what we have found out about them but then do the same things when we think that we are safe and will not be exposed.


        To respect someone is to recognize the value that they have as a creation of God and also for what God has done in their lives personally. It is seeing the other person the way that God sees them. It is knowing that God considers that person as valuable enough to die for. Therefore, there are two aspects to respect: 1) an equal respect for each person as having tremendous worth from God. 2) A personal respect based on how much their character is like that of God’s. It is the second aspect that we are concerned with here.

How can you show respect to another person?

Listening to. This means listening carefully to what they have to say. It means considering their opinion as valuable even if you do not agree. It means not jumping in to share what you want to say until they are finished. Paul Tillich, an American theologian, said, “The first duty of love is to listen.”

        Deferring to. You trust enough in their wisdom, understanding, and concern for you that if you do not see any reason to disagree or be contrary then you will assent to their opinions or wishes.

Honoring. Everyone has some good qualities. Be free to point out those qualities. You can say, “I really admire how you serve in that ministry.” Or “You are a real example to me of perseverance.” Do not ever call that person a derogatory name. Do not ever refer to them as stupid or dumb. Instead, praise that person for good things that they say or do. Be generous with your praise and praise them to others. Most people like to slander and drag down their spouse or others. Do not you be like that, do not get dragged into that my-spouse-is-worst-than-your-spouse-but-see-what-a-trooper-I-am game. Even if the others are saying, “My husband does nothing but complain and he is so lazy,” you can say, “My husband really cares a lot about all of us and he always tries to do the best for us.” Do not put the person down to anyone even in a joking fashion.

        Defending. When others are being petty and are putting your friend or spouse down then be bold and emphatic enough to defend them. And even if what he or she did was wrong you can still stifle the gossip. You do not need to just sit there while everyone else is sending out depth-chargers to sink him even further.

Encouraging. Help that person to achieve his goals. It means, at the minimum, giving verbal support to that person. I get really tired of people who always have to say something negative about everything. When Billy Graham was in New Jersey a while ago I volunteered to help out with several aspects of the crusade. I told a good friend of mine this and instead of encouraging me she said, “Hopefully this won’t affect your job.” Here I was trying to do something good and all that this person could do was to come up with some negative spin on the whole thing. Another time I bought a new car and when I told someone the first thing that he said was, “That car is really bad on snow.” I thought, “Gee, I almost had a moment of pleasure there. Thank you for bursting my bubble and bringing me back to reality.”

Sustaining. Everyone has their down times. They may feel as though circumstances have battered them around and they need to pull back a bit and gather their emotions, goals, finances, and/or esteem. At these times do not kick at the person because they are wounded. Instead, do what you can to support them and help them through these times.


Respect is earned as many have said. It is not bestowed on someone just because you are close to them. However, I have found that people are more deserving of respect then they generally get. Usually it is more like a group of people going into an exquisite and wonderful mansion and then commenting while they leave about how tacky the wallpaper was in the sixth bedroom. No one is perfect but when we comment on someone, all too often it is the characteristic that is their weakest that comes to mind first.

The more that we learn to respect others the more that we will find others respecting us in return.


Understanding involves making an effort to see why this person does what they do and how they think. It involves seeing life from their perspective. It means looking beyond the surface of that behavior or words and knowing why it happened.

        What are areas that we can gain understanding in?

        Health. Some people just are not the picture of vigor. When doing some strenuous activity such as sports or hiking that we are enjoying we must force ourselves to limit what we do to accommodate their limitations. To have understanding is not to try and push them further than they are able to go.

        Motives. Many people have had traumatic experiences or may have been neglected while growing up. This will affect their motives. It may be obvious to you what course of action to take in some situation but for them that choice is terrifying. They may be willing to sacrifice great loss for the sake of predictability and safety. That may drive you crazy but if you understand why they are like that it may make it easier to come up with a compromise or entirely different solution.

        Desires. One person wants to be surrounded by material comfort while another prefers the freedom of having very few things. One person likes quiet walks while the other likes doing things together such as jigsaw puzzles or playing games. It will indeed be the rare person who will share all of your same likes and desires. But instead of setting up a competition of “Will we do it your way or my way this time” understanding might allow you to appreciate why they want to do the thing that you never could see yourself doing before. Understanding will allow you to see why that means so much to them.

        Emotions. One person can be told something and shrug it off whereas someone else falls apart. Emotions are shaped by many different factors. Probably very few people are completely normal in all aspects of their emotions. An older single person who is emotionally stable may get discouraged at the sight of a young family. To understand another person’s emotions is to not quickly dismiss their reaction to something as being a lunatic. It is to know why they are affected so easily by that and so that enables you to be able to help them through it.

        Interests. Someone may like to collect exotic insects; to you that is disgusting and barbaric. Or he may be a huge sports fan. To you that is nothing more than cheering for men or women wearing various types of pajamas and running around a lot. If you make an attempt to find out why they are interested in that then you may gain a deeper appreciation for that interest—even though you still may not embrace it as the greatest thing on Earth. It may also give a greater understanding of who that person is.

        Family. Our families will shape who we are more than anything else. Eighty five percent of our personality is developed by the age of six.[6] By discussing how their parents related to each other or to their children should provide great insights into the person. It will also send up red flags when they are imitating their family’s bad habits.


        How can we better understand another person?

        Talking together. This involves drawing out the other person while sharing your own life. Drawing out another person requires sincere and focused interest and asking appropriate questions. Learn to avoid belittling statements and ask non-accusatory questions. What is a belittling statement? –“Politics is so boring I can’t see why anyone would be interested in it.” Whereas a question that leads to understanding might be, “What is it about politics that you find so interesting?”

Understanding starts with knowledge but then goes further than just the facts and into the motives. What is a question that leads to knowledge? –“What is your favorite movie?” Whereas a question that leads to understanding would be, “Why is that your favorite movie?” You should learn how to ask appropriate questions that will delve deeper and deeper into who the person is. This will take practice. You may get a few “That’s a little too personnel, isn’t it?” responses or looks but then you can take that as your current boundary.

Most of us are unequipped to ask these types of probing questions because we would rather talk about ourselves than to listen to what others have to say. We may think about that other person a lot, but we think about ourselves all of the time. But that leads to the next aspect.

Listening. We cannot ask relevant questions if we do not listen to the other person. This means being genuinely interested in that person and what is happening in their life. How many times have you been talking to someone and you felt that they were only listening to you so that they could bring each topic back to themselves? Here’s a true example.

Me: “I just got engaged.”

Self-absorbed Person: “Oh congratulations! I want to get married. I thought that I was going to get married a few years back but it didn’t work out.”

Me: “We’re going to have a Fall wedding.”

Self-Absorbed Person: “I used to love the Fall but then it seemed that every relationship that I was in broke up in the Fall. So now I hate it.”

By now I’m realizing that this person is always working the conversation back to herself so I try something outlandish as a test.

Me: “My finance is an astronaut.”

Self-Absorbed Person: “Really? I once dated a guy who loved to play this video game about outer space.”

By now I have simply given up. I might as well just sit back, say “So tell me all about yourself—your emotions, your desires, your opinions, and anything else that pops into mind. Oh, and by the way, feel free to repeat many of these things several times,” and then become glassy-eyed.

Observing. See how that person reacts to what you say or how they behave in certain situations. Their responses will tell you a lot about themselves. If every time that you mention her father she tenses up ever so slightly then you know that there is something there. You might want to gently ask about it at an appropriate time.

        Contemplating. Understanding what makes a person tick is more than just gathering some facts. It requires putting conversations together and seeing how everything melds. This does not require a psychology degree but it does require thinking. Of course nobody wants to think that they are being psychoanalyzed and that is not the goal. The idea is to get a better understanding of that person; not play junior Sigmund Freud.


        Understanding a person takes a lot of time and effort. Whereas you can respect someone that you have never met you must spend quite a bit of intimate time with someone in order to understand them. In a sense, you can spend a lifetime with someone and never come to a full understanding but it is certainly well worth the effort trying.


        Communication is a mutual sharing of opinions, thoughts, emotions, desires, needs, goals, likes, dislikes, and lives. It involves talking, writing, body language, and actions. Full communication involves discussing the bad things as well as the good.

        How can we develop total communication?

        Make opportunities. Instead of reading the paper or watching TV during meals make it a point to talk to each other. If one person is going to be late then, if possible, wait until you can be together. When visiting places like museums or parks do not spend all of the time only talking about what you see but concentrate on each other at times. When driving home ask the other person what they liked most about the day and why.

        Be equitable. You may take the suggestion of sharing about yourself very seriously and go on and on. That may be fine at times but you need to let the other person talk also. Becoming intimate is a two-way street. But on the other hand it does not mean just allowing the other person to share incessantly without you ever adding anything in. There are poems and analogies about how a close relationship is being like two streams that flow into each other and form a mighty river. But if one of those streams is a dry bed then there is not any additive effect. Yes, some people need a lot more words to say the same thing as another person and the time may not be split exactly 50/50. But there should at least be an attempt by both parties to open up and to give each other that same opportunity.

        Make an effort. Because life and circumstances change so do people. Communication is an ongoing effort. Too many people settle into a rut where neither bothers to even try or care to communicate. I had a poem published on this called “Nick and Stella.”[7]


The thin, black hands

of the starburst

wall clock sends

its plastic summons.

Nick and Stella shamble

        to their daily

        rendezvous with the

patterned placemats

set before them.

Flatware clangs ceramic plates

        decorated with

        large yellow flowers.

Place settings courtesy of

$50 worth of groceries

from Foodtown.

The rustlings of a carefully

divided newspaper

provides all the conversation.

Nick’s amoeboid belly

        is digesting the

        band of tin

        which edges the

        formica table.

He breaths heavily through

        his nose

        while he chews.

The conversation is folded;

        the greasy steel is placed

        among the petals.

The capless bottom of

        one of the chair’s

        hollow metal legs

        scratches the

        decolored linoleum floor

        as it is pushed back.

They sink silently

        into their

        vinyl furniture;

        only the pulsing of

        the screen

        disturbs their darkness.

Nick falls asleep and

        breathes heavily

        through his nose.

The wall clock signals.

        Stella gets up,

        sets her alarm,

        and goes to bed.


        Argue maturely and sensitively. This might be the hardest time to communicate. Yes, it is true that some couples seem to bicker, complain, and yell at each other rather easily. But this is not communicating; this is attacking, berating, assaulting, accusing, criticizing, or whatever else you might want to call it. But this is not communicating.

        Disagreements will happen. It is how they are handled and resolved that makes the difference. Communication involves maturely discussing the situation, sharing why you did or said what you did and how you felt. It means first examining yourself before pointing your finger at the other person. It requires listening patiently to what the other person has to say and considering his or her points. It means trying to work out a solution and not just attempting to nuke the other person into surrender.

I remember one instance where two people were arguing. The wife was on the attack at that point and the husband said that he did not want to argue anymore and just got up and walked away for a minute. Then he came back and criticized something about her. The truth was not that he did not want to argue anymore, but that he only wanted to argue when he was making all of the attacks.

        So many times when I am counseling people they want to do nothing more than point out what is wrong with the other person. Husbands and wives will do that to each other all of the time. I have to tell them that if they only point out the other person’s faults then nothing will ever change. They have to look at their own shortcomings first and then do something about it. That is the only way that change will ever occur.

        Immature ways of handling arguments is conversation killers like “I guess that I’m just always wrong” or “Like you’re so perfect.” If you say “I don’t want to talk about it now” to avoid discussing the issue at all then that is wrong, but if you are sincerely planning on revisiting the issue when the circumstances are better then that is fine. If a fault, mistake, or sin is pointed out to you and your response is to attack the other person without attempting to examine what you might have done wrong is to be arrogant and unteachable. That is a technique called ad hominem, which means that you are not interested in discussing the point reasonably but are only trying to deflect it by attacking the person initiating it.

        Of course it is not necessary to air every gripe and offense. If this happens then you will probably find the opposite effect of communication becoming suppressed because everyone is walking on eggs. Many of the smaller and one-time offenses will just need to be swallowed and forgotten.


        Everyone has faults. Not everyone does things as well as you do. Some people take longer to change than others. All of this requires patience. Patience is the ability to see beyond your own schedule and expectations and wait for someone to change at their own reasonable pace.

        What helps us to develop patience?

        Understanding that if the attitude for improvement is there then the results will come. Sometimes we are impatient because we want the results right now; we cannot wait. But people cannot go from “A” to “Z” in one swift move. It takes time and for certain issues that have deep and terrifying roots it may take more time then for most people. We can either stand on the side with our arms crossed over our chests and bark out instructions or we can roll up our sleeves and pitch in to help.

        It has been said that it is not so important where you are at but where you are going. Ecclesiastes 4:13 sums this up well, “A poor, yet wise lad is better than an old and foolish king who no longer knows how to receive instruction.” Someone who has reached a high level of accomplishment or character but no longer desires to change or improve (i.e., he is not teachable) is worse off than someone who is still near the starting gate but is running as fast as he can towards the goal.

        Being able to help the person according to their schedule rather than your schedule. You may see clearly where the person is at right now and where it is that they should be. Then you draw a straight line between those two points and that is the path that they should take in order to change. But that person may not be able to take that route for a number of reasons: they may have other issues that are clouding the picture, some task along your route may be insurmountable for them and instead of going through it they may have to go around it, or they might not be emotionally or psychologically ready to take one or more of those steps. To be patient is to be willing to understand what they are capable of accomplishing at the moment and helping them with each step as they are able. It also means realizing that what may have been doable yesterday is no longer doable because something has changed.

        Giving God a chance to work. We want people to get saved today. We think that this one characteristic is the one to improve on first. We think that the work should start immediately and without delay. But God may have other plans. God knows what is more important and He knows that this one characteristic that we are so juiced about them changing first cannot be changed until this other, more hidden, issue is dealt with first. We should try as much as possible to determine if and how God might be working in that person’s life before we decide to play junior Holy Spirit.

        See the good. Someone may not think or care that their behavior or attitude is wrong or hurtful. Would you want to throw away everything that is good just because of these one or two things? We have a tendency to think that it will be better with someone else and sometimes that is true. But have you taken for granted all of the good things in that person because they have become routine? Will another person be more compatible or easier to take? Perhaps, but have you given the person that you are with a chance and are you being fair?

        Being willing to wait. Sometimes that person is obstinate and has no desire to change at all. Maybe she has dug in her heels and refuses to admit any wrong or faults and is highly defensive when you even try to talk to her. In this case you may be able to do nothing other than try to lead an exemplary life (applying the principle of 1 Peter 3:1-2 to both men and women) and to pray. To be patient is to endure this and hope that it is only for a season.


        Developing patience is perhaps the hardest of all of these foundational qualities. But if we do not learn patience then the result will be frustration, anger, and disgust. We will then, as is usually the case, bring it right back to ourselves with thoughts such as, “If he cared about me he would change more quickly.”

        Unfortunately, patience is usually learned the hard way. Romans 5:3 tells us that patience is learned through tribulation and in 2 Peter 1:6 patience follows self-control. Tribulation and self-control are not two of our favorite things. But these are the primary things that will help us to develop and grow in this vital foundational quality.


        How difficult this can be! The things that we will do to avoid true repentance with other people. We may simply be extra friendly hoping that will wash away the offense. We may blame the other person to try to force them to be the one who repents. Or we may refuse to talk to them ever again. All because we are not willing to admit that we are wrong.

        Repentance is to admit that we have done wrong and to sincerely desire not to commit that wrong again. There is repentance before God and repentance to someone that we have sinned against.

Why is repenting before God so important? There are entire books written on that matter but we will just examine one verse: 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We are going to look at some of the words in this verse.

To confess is to admit to God the wrong that we have done. It is not to hide the sin or to deny it. It is not to make excuses or to blame someone else. All that God asks from us is that we be honest: “I have sinned.”

God is faithful and just. In the scriptures, God’s faithfulness is tied to His promises. He will always do that which He has said. 2 Corinthians 1:20 reads, “For as many as may be the promises of God, in Him they are yes; wherefore also by Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us” and Hebrews 10:17, “and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”

The word “just” is interesting. We associate justice with punishment; not with forgiveness. So how does justice play into this? It is because Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay the entire sum of the penalty for our sins and then God raised Him from the dead. Do you know what is the significance of the resurrection? Because God raised His Son from the dead, it showed that He fully accepted Jesus’ payment for our sins. The risen Christ is proof that God will, indeed, forgive us of our sins when we repent because if He does not forgive us then Jesus did not accomplish His mission on the cross and so cannot rise from the dead. When we confess our sins, God must forgive us or He will not be just. He is faithful to forgive because He has promised to do so, and He is just to forgive us because Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose again.

It is interesting to note that the word “our” in “to forgive us our sins” is not in the Greek. This sets up a subtle contrast between this expression and “all unrighteousness.” The verse may be paraphrased, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive the sins we confess and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The idea is that when we confess the sins that we are aware of, God will cleanse us completely and thoroughly from all unrighteousness even those that we forgot or are unaware of. We do not need to agonize over sins that we cannot remember. God takes care of that Himself.

The word “cleanse” means to wash clean. In the Hebrew culture it meant to take a dirty pot and to make it shiny.

So you can paraphrase this entire verse as, “If we acknowledge our sins to God, He will be faithful to His promises and remember that His Son, Jesus Christ, paid for those sins and He will remove the guilt of those sins and wash away all of the dirt from all of the wrongs that we have committed and we will shine like new creation” This is why repenting before God is so important.

        Why is repenting to someone that we have sinned against so important?

        It clarifies our need to change. If we never see ourselves as doing wrong then we will never change. But even if we really do know in our hearts that we have done something wrong but are unwilling to admit it then any effort to improve will be postponed.

        It cleanses us. Guilt, shame, and sin are like garbage and unless we get rid of it they will continue to build up and pollute us. Confession incinerates these things.

        It restores a broken relationship. If we have done someone wrong then it is more than likely that there will be a rift between us. Repentance helps to bring two people together that were previously on different sides.

        It is commanded. James 5:16 says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.”

        It is living in truth. When we try to deny or suppress our sins against one another we are living a lie. We are trying to pretend that we are better than we are and that something that we said or did was either misinterrupted, totally justified, or simply never happened. God created us to function in truth. When we lie about our sin our conscience will bother us, we will be tense, we will act phony, our fellowship with God and with that person will be strained, and we will lie, blame, justify or whatever it takes to verify that our sin really was not sin. Is not it just easier to repent?


        Sometimes forgiving can even be harder than repenting. But whether it is hard (or so we might even think—impossible), goes against our nature, or is something that we have never done before we must still do it for our own sakes, the other person’s sake, and for the relationship.

        What are some key steps in forgiving others?

God forgives us. The first step in forgiving others is to recognize that God has greatly and abundantly and completely forgiven us when we are born again. Any godly character that we practice must first radiate from God’s character. You can go to a number of seminars on how to do evangelism and hear a bunch of rah-rah sermons on reaching the lost. You may help out with a few outreaches and pass out some tracts. But until you see God’s burning desire for the lost, it will never burn in your own heart. You may have the technique, but you will not have the heart. And so it is with forgiveness. You must first see how abundantly God has forgiven you before you will be able to forgive others.

        Pray for power. This takes realizing that we cannot do it on our own--that we lack the power, and that we lack the desire. Let us take a look at a passage in Luke 17.

5  And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”

6  And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you.

7  “But which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come immediately and sit down to eat’?

8  “But will he not say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me until I have eaten and drunk; and afterward you will eat and drink’?

9  “He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he?

10  “So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.’”


In verse five the apostles are asking Jesus to increase their faith. But for what? Was it to move a mountain? Was it to reach the world with the Gospel? Was it to heal someone who is terribly sick or maybe even to raise the dead? What was this incredibly great task that Jesus was asking them to do that they were forced to cry out, “Increase our faith”?

        We see the answer in verses three and four. Their request was in the context of forgiving someone. Jesus just told them that no matter how many times someone offends you, you need to forgive each and every time. And they said, “But we can’t do this! It’s impossible! So give us more faith so that we can do this.”

But notice Jesus’ response in verse six. The tree that is mentioned here is probably the black mulberry. The rabbis thought that its roots could remain in the ground for 600 years. Clearly, this is something that has dug itself down deep and would be hard to move. So there is this large, deeply rooted tree and Jesus is saying that in order to remove it completely and cast it into the sea you would need what? A hundred men with ropes? A giant bulldozer? A sharp axe, a shovel and about 100 years? No, we just need something as small as a mustard seed. What Jesus is emphasizing here is that in order to effect miracles, our faith does not have to be great, it just has to be genuine and to have its foundation in a great God.

When we struggle with forgiving someone the problem is not that we do not have enough faith to forgive them. The problem is that we do not have any faith to forgive them. Why? The main reason may be because we do not want to. We want to see them suffer for what they did. We want them to feel the same hurt that they made us to feel. We want to give them the message that if they hurt me then they will feel pain also, so they better think twice about hurting me again. But if someone hurts me and then I make them suffer for it to the point where I feel satisfied that they know what it feels like then I cannot forgive them. Why? Because forgiveness involves releasing someone from a debt. But if I make them pay off that debt then there is nothing left to forgive. Let us not confuse forgiveness with justice or to somehow try and mix the two together. Let us not think that if someone hurts us, that we can grab them by the neck and shake them real hard and then let go and say, “I forgive you, brother” that we are being noble and Christ-like. Forgiveness means graciously releasing them from a debt; not making them do penance first.

Back to Luke 17. Just like this mulberry tree, hurt can dig its roots deep into our lives. It may even feel like those roots have been there for 600 years. And it may feel that there is nothing that we can do to extract those roots from out of our heart and from out of our thoughts. But Jesus said that it only takes the smallest amount of faith to do this. This gives hope. We can, by the grace of God, forgive anyone; no matter how deep, no matter how long it has been there. We need to pray, “God, give me the desire to forgive. Give me the power to forgive.” We can forgive others the way that God forgives us. The key is that we must want to forgive them.

Something else that is interesting about this passage is that the mulberry tree is cast into the sea. In Micah 7:19 God said about Himself, “He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities under foot. Yes, You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.”

But then Jesus continues this teaching in verses seven through ten with a very interesting and what seems to be unrelated story. What is Jesus talking about here? He is saying that we do not need to become a spiritual giant in order to forgive someone, even if that person has hurt us badly. We just need to use what little faith we already have to believe God that He wants to give us the desire and the power in order to forgive that person.

How do we get to that point? By obeying God in other areas. Notice that this story does not even say anything about forgiveness. It is about serving. It is about doing those basic things that God wants us to do. It is not even talking about doing great things. The servant in this story is not out there raising people from the dead or preaching the Gospel to thousands of people. He is out there doing that which is simple. He is plowing or tending sheep. He then comes in and serves a meal and clothes himself properly. These are not terribly difficult things to do. Psalm 111:10 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever.” God does not make forgiving others hard. But He is saying that if you do not have the faith to obey God in even the simple, basic commands then do not expect to have the faith to do something like forgive another person. If you are not regularly attending a church, if you are not reading the Bible on a consistent basis, if you are not praying or obeying other commands then how can you expect to be able to forgive?

A key to forgiving someone is not for us to psyche ourselves up until we think that we have convinced ourselves that we should forgive that person. It is not weighing the reasons for and the reasons against. The key is in believing God to do the work in our own hearts and to believe His strength and His power. We will struggle with forgiveness so long as we leave God out of the picture and try to accomplish this on our own. 

Do not vilify them. This next point may not apply in every situation but it is something to think about. Lewis Smedes in his book “Forgive & Forget” says it well. We need to see the deeper truth about the people who have hurt us; “a truth our hate blinds us to, a truth we can see only when we separate them from what they did to us…. For the truth about those who hurt us is that they are weak, needy, and fallible human beings. They were people before they hurt us and they are people after they hurt us.”[8] When someone hurts us we can too easily make them out to be monsters in order to justify our bitterness and our own bad attitudes. We can enlarge their sin to be even greater than what they are in every other area of their life. If they have gossiped about us then we see them like a big, ugly rat that does nothing else in life than run around and tell everyone they meet wicked lies about us. We can de-humanize or even de-Christianize them. To be able to forgive someone we must see them as sinners for whom Christ loves and died for.

A lack of forgiveness will enslave you. If you cannot free people from their wrongs then you will enslave yourself to your own painful past and will then allow that bitterness to become your future. You can reverse this future only by releasing the other person from their sin against you and you can only do that by forgiving them. In Philip Yancey’s book “What’s So Amazing About Grace” he says, “I once heard an immigrant rabbi make an astonishing statement, ‘Before coming to America, I had to forgive Adolph Hitler,’ he said. ‘I did not want to bring Hitler inside me to my new country.’:”[9] Hebrews 12:15 says, “See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.” When you are bitter and refuse to forgive, not only will it destroy your own life, but it will also negatively affect the lives of those around you.

Get strength and accountability from others. Tell someone else about your lack of forgiveness and ask them to pray for you. But be careful not to tell or hint at who the person is who has sinned against you. Do not use this as an excuse to gossip. The unforgiveness is your sin and that is of greater importance to you at this moment than what the other person did to you.

        Extend forgiveness. If possible, we should offer our forgiveness to that person. If our forgiveness only remains in our mind and cannot be outwardly expressed then it will do little good. When doing so there several points to realize.

They should understand the truth of how much they hurt you. This does not mean going on the attack. It does not mean ripping them to shreds and calling them names. It means explaining from your perspective why you were so hurt. Not, “This is what you did to me!” But, “I was hurt by what you said or did and this is why.” Do not expect that person to agree with you about every little detail. That is not necessary and it is unlikely to happen. If you want total agreement on every insult, hurt, or offense you will never get it. You do not have to force them to feel remorse for every word, every nuance, and every action. The first step is for you to forgive them. That is absolutely the most important part of this whole process. It is even more important than for them to repent.

You must be truthful about what happened and how you felt. Do not exaggerate so as to make them feel as badly as you can make them.

Make an attempt to restore the relationship.

        Perhaps the most egregious act of one person sinning against another was Saul against David. Saul tried everything that he could think of to destroy David to the point of chasing him around the country in order to kill him. Did David forgive Saul? I believe so and some scriptures indicate this. David was able to wish Saul well (1 Samuel 24:21-22). David considered Saul to be important as a person. Even though Saul was a failure in many ways as king, David did not berate him or recount all of Saul’s failures or sins. David did not play him out to be a monster (1 Samuel 26:24). David was sincerely grieved at Saul’s death. He was not gladly thinking, “See, I knew that God would get him eventually. That certainly justifies my dislike of him.” All too often when we have had a conflict with someone, even after we believe that we have forgiven him, we can still secretly hope that things will go poorly for him or even be a little glad when we do hear about something going lousy for them. David was not like that. He found no vindication in Saul’s misfortune (2 Samuel 1:24-25a).


We are going to look at two Bible stories. In each one, someone was terribly sinned against. And yet, their responses were opposite. We are going to see how this affected their lives, their futures and how God viewed their reactions.

The first story involves Simeon and Levi. In Genesis 34:1-7 we can see where Shechem, who was outside the tribe of Israel, raped Simeon and Levi’s sister Dinah.

In verses 13-17 Jacob’s sons pretended to go along with Hamor [Shechem’s father] in order to trap them and get revenge. Notice what is missing from the sons of Jacob. They did not pray or cry out to God. They did not seek counsel or their father’s advice. They lied or, at least, used half-truths. They schemed together about how to get revenge. Obviously, they did not make this story up on the fly. They sat around and planned it out. When we are sinned against, is our first instinct to cry out to God. Do we seek counsel? Or do we lie and plot revenge? Do we think evil thoughts towards that person?

Then in verse 25 we read how Simeon and Levi killed all of the males of Shechem’s village and then stole what was left. They punished even those who were associated with the transgressors. Lack of forgiveness sometimes knows no boundaries. My enemy’s friends become my enemies is an old saying. Have you ever been hurt by someone and then snubbed his or her friends? This is wrong.

In verse 30 Jacob erred in that he did not reprove Simeon and Levi for doing evil but only for causing him trouble. He was more concerned about consequences than righteousness.

In verse 31 we discover that they could not get their eyes off of Shechem’s offense. They focused on the sin and not on God’s grace and forgiveness. They let another person’s sin dictate their own lives. Shechem’s sin dominated their thoughts, their actions, and their excuses.

Throughout this story notice how many times God’s name comes up—zero. They never took the situation to God. They never even tried to rely on His grace and power. And the result was the ruin of their own lives and the ruin of the lives of those around them including their own family.

        Then we go to Genesis 42:24. It is interesting how Simeon was the one taken and held in prison. The one whose life was already imprisoned by unforgiveness is now the one who is held in an actual prison.

        Finally in Genesis 49:5-7 we read about their future. These brothers are forever linked because of their sin. In this prophecy of Jacob concerning all of his sons they are the only two who are mentioned together.

We can see some of the consequences of revenge and unforgiveness: They were not led by God’s guidance. They were not vessels of God’s glory; i.e., God would not shine through their lives.

Unforgiveness is tied to anger, destruction of others and of ourselves, self-will, wanting our way rather than God’s way, and cruelty. The result was that God cursed them and God divided them; i.e. they did not have the strength to do what should have been able to do.


        The second story involves Joseph who was one of Jacob’s other sons. In Genesis 37:18-20, 23-24 we can see how Joseph was offended. He was unfairly schemed against. He was personally hurt and the attack went deep.

        In Genesis 45:3-5 Joseph brought God into the middle of the hurt. He did not focus on the sin, instead he focused on the God who can overcome all sin.

        Then in Jacob’s same prophecy in Genesis 49:22-26 we see what lied ahead in Joseph’s future. He was fruitful. Notice how many times the word “blessings” is used. What is the theme of verses 23-25? When he was attacked, God stood by him and supported him and blessed him.


        Look at the contrast:

1)       Simeon and Levi perpetrated violence. Joseph resisted violence.

2)       Simeon and Levi lost the council of God. Joseph had God helping him.

3)       Simeon and Levi lost the glory of God. Joseph was surrounded by the Almighty.

4)       Simeon and Levi were cursed. Joseph was blessed five times from the heavens above, from the depths below, and from all around him.

5)       Simeon and Levi were scattered; their strength was removed. Joseph was distinguished.


Who would you rather be? The one who fumes about your undeserved hurt or the one who puts God into the center of your hurt and forgives?

People will hurt us. We must forgive. Otherwise, our relationships will seethe with bitterness, hurt, and revenge.


There are many different levels of love. But true love involves sacrifice. In John 15:13 Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” Love mean putting the other person’s needs, desires and wants above even your own. Philippians 2:3 is one of the most powerful but difficult verses in the Bible, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself”

The greatest treatise on love ever written is found in 1 Corinthians 13. We are going to take a look what love means and how we can apply it by examining four verses in this chapter.

4  Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,

5  does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,

6  does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;

7  bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.


        Love is patient. It should be noted that the first definition of love in this section is for patience. Maybe that is because patience is the first thing to go when love wavers. This word as used here is more regarding people than circumstances. It means to be long or distant from anger. It has the picture of there being a lot of space between you and your anger with a very long fuse in between. This is in contrast to the person who always tightly clenches his anger in his fist ready to swing at the first provocation. Love does not retaliate when wronged. It waits for people who have faults to change. It waits for people who have sinned to repent. It waits for people who are weak or who doubt to be strengthened. Love does not toss aside these people because they get in your way. It realizes that maybe God has put them into your path so that you may stop what you are doing and minister to them.

·         When you hear that someone has gossiped about you and then you spread around something terrible about them in return then you do not love.

·         If someone in a ministry is doing an adequate job but is not quite up to your standards and so you quickly replace them then you do not love.

·         If someone is struggling with anxiety and you take the time to help them grow in their pray life and trust in God then that is love.

·         If someone in customer service takes longer then you had hoped to get you some information and you do not throw a tantrum or criticize that person then that is love.

        Love is kind. Love is generous; it readily gives to others in need. This might be time, resources, or a listening ear. It is hospitable; it does not view guests as obligations or inconveniences. It is warm and friendly; it does not ignore people because they are different. It reaches out to the lonely and the needy. It is sympathetic and understanding; it does not take advantage of another’s misfortune or weakness. It treats others with dignity and respect. Love is never cruel to people nor to animals. It gives a sense of safety and security to a relationship. Love allows people to relax when they are around you.

·         If you see someone new at your church and you go over and talk to them to make them feel welcome and comfortable then that is love.

·         If someone did something to you that you did not like and so you give them the cold shoulder then that is not love.

·         Do you serve food at a soup kitchen or deliver supplies to the homeless then that is love.

·         If you unfavorably compare your wife, your children, or your friends to other people then that is not love.

·         If you are able to include other people in your life, your interests and in your goals then that is love.

·         Are people able to be open with you, able to share their thoughts, their feelings, and their emotions without worrying about being rejected then that is love.

        Love is not jealous. Jealousy wants to protect what it already has. It does not want to lose possessions, affections, or position. Whereas envy wants for its own something that another person already has. Both of these concepts exist in the word used here. This does not mean that we should foolishly give away everything that we have and impoverish ourselves (1 Timothy 5:8), but that we should be content and generous with what God has given to us.

·         If you hope that someone does not get the recognition or the ministry or job promotion that you wanted for yourself then that is not love.

·         If you hope that the person who did get that ministry or job position that you wanted fails and looks bad then that is not love.

·         If you cannot rejoice with someone who is getting married because you are not married then that is not love.

·         If you cannot rejoice with a couple who are having a child because you want to have a child then that is not love.

·         If someone who already has more of something than you do and then gets even more because they deserve it and you can rejoice then that is love.

·         If you are able to support and encourage someone even if it means that they leap over you in some way then that is love.

        Love does not brag. Love is not a vain windbag or blowhard. It does not try to impress people with its knowledge or accomplishments. Love will share useful wisdom and be a good example but only so that the other person will grow and become more like Christ and not merely to impress them.

·         Do you monopolize conversations with how great a person you are or with what you have accomplished then that is not love.

·         If someone is pleased to tell you something that they have done and then you have to top them then that is not love.

·         If there is a conversation going on about some subject and you have to jump in and spill everything that you know just to impress them then that is not love.

·         If someone fails or sins and you boost about how you would never do anything like that then that is not love.

        Love is not arrogant. Some like the translation “puffed up.” Love does not act condescendingly to others nor does it act superior and oppressive. Love does not consider itself to be more important than others. Love does not sit back and wait to be served; love jumps to its feet and serves others. Love does not think that it is beyond correction from even the newest Christian.

·         If you are a ministry leader or a pastor and you refuse to do the dirty work because you have “more important things to do” then that is not love.

·         If someone sends you an anonymous letter of correction and you refuse to even look at it because it is unsigned then that is not love.

·         Do you refuse certain people at your church because their appearance is not up to what you think is proper or because they are dirty then that is not love.

·         If you expect other people to always pay for your meals, take you places, and give you things when you make no attempt to sacrifice for any one else’s needs or desires then that is not love.

        Love does not act unbecomingly. Love does not make a fool out of itself. It is not rude. It does not act dishonorably. Love does not draw unnecessary or excessive attention to itself.

·         Do you insult waiters or waitresses because they made a mistake or were not fast enough then that is not love.

·         Do you make a public scene because you did not get your way then that is not love.

·         Do you wear clothes that are sexually provocative then that is not love.

·         Do you belittle your spouse, children, or friends in front of others then that is not love.

·         When you are playing sports or games and you have to win at all costs even if it takes the fun out of it then that is not love.

        Love does not seek its own. Love does not wait until all of its desires and wants are fulfilled before seeking to assist others. Love does not squirrel away things that it may not even want just to ensure that others will not get it first. It is not competitive.

·         When food is being served do you jump to the front of the line to make sure that you get the best that is being offered then that is not love.

·         If you are able to be genuinely interested in all aspects of another person, wanting the best for that person, and being willing to sacrifice to help them achieve it then that is love.

·         If someone is in a crisis or is sick and you sacrifice doing some things that you like to stay with them then that is love.

        Love is not provoked. Love is not driven to anger or resentment. It is not irritated.

·         When someone is getting on your nerves and you are able to handle it maturely and graciously then that is love.

·         If someone serves you a food that you do not like or gives you something that is the wrong color or size and you snap at them or criticize them then that is not love.

·         If someone offends you and you scheme on how to get them back then that is not love.

        Love does not take into account a wrong suffered. This means not keeping a record of someone else’s wrongs especially so that you can launch this list at them when you want to criticize them. Love does not hold a grudge. Love allows the restoration of the repentant.

·         If someone offends you and then sincerely admits that they did wrong, if you still hold a grudge or expect more from them then you lack love.

·         If someone leaves a cup or your tools around and you say with anger, “There you go again” then that is not love.

·         If someone does something wrong and then feels terrible about it and you do not hammer them even more then that is love.

        Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness. Love does not side with immoral or illegal acts even if it would be to its own profit. Love hates excessive or misguided justice. Love does not glory in sin.

·         If someone does something wrong but then it gets blown up way beyond what you know to be the truth and then they are punished in accordance with the inflated story and you are glad then that is not love.

·         If you like to brag about how drunk you got or what woman you had sex with then that is not love.

·         If someone that you do not like gets caught in sin and you are smug then that is not love.

·         When someone who you know is guilty is acquitted and you pleased then that is not love.

·         When you know that a program or movie is risqué or foul and you refuse to bring your family or friends to it then that is love.

        Love rejoices with the truth. Love is not glad when someone gets away with something that is wrong. Love does not admire the clever thief or the amoral hero. Love is glad to find out that it was wrong or had misinterrupted a situation so that it can now walk in the truth.

·         When you do something wrong and are caught and then admit to the situation exactly as it was and fully accept your responsibility without twisting anything to implement someone else then that is love.

·         If you believe a certain doctrine and you hold to it despite all evidence to the contrary then that is not love.

·         When someone rightly corrects you and you accept it without being defensive then that is love.

        Love bears all things. Love is like a watertight vessel. It is able to contain itself from venting or raging when put under hardship and trying circumstances. The word “bears” is related to the word “roof” or “to protect by covering.”[10]

·         When your spouse or friend is unnecessarily criticizing you or belittling you and you do not retaliate in anger then that is love.

·         When a bad driver cuts in front of you and you do not curse him or get furious then that is love.

·         When your family or friend is being accused and you walk away leaving them to fend for themselves then that is not love.

        Love believes all things. Love thinks the best of any person until that is proven otherwise. It is human nature to first think the worst and then force the person to prove their innocence. But love is not like this. Love gives people the benefit of the doubt. But this does not mean that love is a rosy-eyed fool that disregards negative facts in order to always be positive. Love is not gullible.

·         When you start a new job and people say nasty things about a co-worker that you have not even met and you find yourself accepting their gossip as fact and so avoid that person then that is not love.

·         When someone makes a malicious comment about your pastor or someone in your church and you accept it unquestioningly then that is not love.

        Love hopes all things. Even when other people no longer hope in that person who is wavering in their faith or strength love is able to continue hoping for the best. Jesus did not extinguish a smoldering wick or break a broken reed.

·         When your friend has fallen back into drinking or drugs and all others have given up on him in disgust but you stay with him then that is love.

·         When someone talks about accomplishing some goal that you may think they are grossly unequipped or unprepared for but you are able to encourage and support them anyway then that is love.

·         If someone does something seemingly stupid but you are able to defer to their integrity until you find out all of the facts then that is love.

        Love endures all things. Love continues to be steadfast even when tempted to do otherwise. When the battle rages close at hand, love is the soldier that stays at his post and does what he is commanded to do; he does not run.

·         When you are with some old non-Christian friends and they talk you into going out drinking or watching pornography or using foul language then that is not love.

·         When your boss wants you to do something wrong or illegal and you go along with it for the sake of your job then that is not love.

·         When someone wants you to harm another person or their possessions and you refuse then that is love.


You have a critical spirit if you:

·         Examine much of what people say and do with an eye for what is wrong

·         Focus a good portion of your conversations on what is wrong with your church, pastor, job, family, friends, neighbors, etc.

·         Think that you have a gift for finding problems or weaknesses

·         Make sweeping condemnations based on one small or perceived failure

·         Lash out quickly in judgement before hearing all of the facts or the other side of the story

·         Usually find yourself alone in a condemnation of something

·         Find yourself all too often using phrases like, “I’m only telling you this for your own good” or “Believe me, I’d rather not have to be the one to tell you this, but…”

·         Think of your criticisms as “helpful opinions” or “love jabs” or as “guideposts to maturity” rather than as the stinging reproofs that they really are

·         Are forced to rely on unverifiable support for your reproofs such as “The Holy Spirit told me” rather than being able to give a real example

·         Are generally only able to enumerate the “wrong” or weak parts of a sermon but never any good points



One of the biggest causes of relationships and marriages falling apart is because one of the persons becomes greatly disillusioned and is unable to either accept the shortcomings of the other or is unwilling to work to remedy it. Some disillusionment in a relationship is not unusual. No one will ever be perfect and no one person will ever be able to fulfill all of another person’s needs. So there will always be a sense that not every piece of the two puzzles will fit absolutely perfectly and that some pieces will be left open. That is actually normal because God created us not so that one other person will be all that we will ever need but that we will also need God and close friendships to make us whole.

The issue is not whether there will be disappointment but how it is dealt with. Disillusionment provides us the opportunity to grow and compromise. The problem is when the disillusionment and discouragement becomes greater than the desire to overcome them and to strengthen the relationship.

There can be many reasons for disillusionment: one person might have been phony and now the real person is coming out or someone was blind to the other’s faults no matter how large they loomed. But probably the biggest cause of disillusionment is going into a relationship with unreasonable expectations. And the higher our expectations are the greater the potential for this problem because then we are coming closer to idealism rather than to reality.

So what can you do to avoid falling into the trap of unreasonable expectations while you are still unmarried? Make out an honest list of what you are looking for in a mate. Write it down on paper. You may never have done this and you may be surprised at what you are thinking. Then go through your list and determine what is set in stone and what is set in sand. Those set in stone are absolute necessities. This list may be as long or as short as you honestly need to make it, but, if you are a Christian, then there must be at least one requirement set in stone that is irrevocable and that is that the other person must also be a Christian. Those written in stone might include the following:

·         She must faithfully attend a good church

·         She must have regular devotions

·         She must be financially responsible

·         She must be good with people

These are things that are reasonable and, to you, necessary.

Those set in sand are things that can be compromised. They are qualities that you would love for the other person to have, but they are not showstoppers for the relationship. In a want ad those characteristics set in stone would be listed under “required.” Those set in sand would be those listed under “desirable” or “a plus.” They might be:

·         It would be great if he has a college degree

·         It would be great if he exercised three times a week

·         It would be great if he is willing to share household chores

·         It would be great if he likes cats

·         It would be great if he likes punk/industrial music

These are things that may be reasonable to a degree but you must be willing to give up any or even all of them without anger or bitterness.

A problem is when your entire list or a great deal of it is set in stone and nothing is negotiable. Then, unless your list has almost nothing on it, you will either never commit to anyone or you will be guaranteed to become disillusioned.

So what happens when you meet someone that seems great except for one or more of the necessary expectations not being met? Then you have several choices.

1)       Try and change the other person. This may not be so bad if done right. What is the right way?

Let us say that you love cats and you put this in concrete and he really does not care for them. You can tell him all of the benefits that you have had from owning a cat. You can introduce him to your cats and encourage him to play with them. You can ask him why he does not like cats and see if any of his reasons are misguided.

What is the wrong way? You can bombard him with cute cat stories ad nausea until he runs screaming into the darkness. You can repeatedly tell him why there is something wrong with him because he does not like cats hoping that you will grind him down. You can tell him that if you two ever get married that you will have cats whether he likes it or not.

What is the difference with these approaches? With the first approach you are discussing it together and you are trying to win him over to your viewpoint. With the second you are trying to wear him out, or humiliate him, or arrogantly telling him that you will have your way and that is it.

But ultimately, if he does not come over to your side then you will have decide on one of the following three remaining options.

2)       Your second choice is to drop him like a hot potato. Cats are important to you and if he does not like them then out he goes. This is a requirement set in stone and if he does not meet it then away with him.

3)       After much hand wringing you can honestly drop this expectation from your list. It will be tough and it will possibly hurt but you can decide that this one requirement does not outweigh everything else that is great about him.

But a word of caution, do not half-heartedly drop it only to resurrect it some time in the future because, if that is the case, then the disillusionment will come. If you find yourself thinking, “We’ve been married five years now and you’d think that by now he’d want to have a cat just because he knows how important it is to me. I’ve been more than patient.” then you and the relationship are headed for trouble. The truth is that you never really dropped this requirement; you only put it aside for a while.

4)       Keep this as an expectation and assume or hope that he will change in the future. This is the worst thing that you can do because this is what sets up disillusionment and then, ultimately, anger. This is same as the previous choice but instead of resurrecting what you think you had dropped, here you know that you expect him to eventually change. You have simply put the fulfillment on temporary hold.

This final choice is, unfortunately, what too many people do in their relationships. Then the longer this expectation goes unfulfilled the more that it simmers and burns and the more that it becomes a point of contention. Then hurt comes in with thoughts like, “He just doesn’t understand me.” Or “He isn’t being fair.” Or “My needs are not being met and they should be.” Or “He must not think that I’m important or he’d make more of an effort.” Or “He knows how important this is to me.” Then comes anger, which can manifest itself in resentment, indignation, or bitterness. This leads to more and bigger doubts about all kinds of things. Frustration runs high and there are arguments about every little thing. Being contrary, attacking, and being defensive are all frequent actions. Finally the relationship dies.

Have you ever heard of the proverb: “ For wont of a nail the horseshoe was lost. For wont of a horseshoe the horse was lost. For wont of a horse the rider was lost. For wont of a rider the battle was lost. For wont of a battle the war was lost.”? It may sound overly dramatic that the loss of one nail determined an entire war. However, do not glibly toss aside the effects that even one unmet expectation can ultimately have on a relationship. It is like the fly in the ointment.

        Of course after we get into a relationship we can start to develop expectations that we did not have before. This is fine so long as they are based on what we already know about that person and are not beyond that person. Expectations are not goals. They are not ways to stretch the other person into something else.

        Let us face it, we all have expectations. They are necessary because without them we would settle for anything and then we would probably be miserable all of our lives. However, if we do not properly determine which expectations are necessary (i.e., those set in stone) and those which are desirable but unnecessary (those set in sand) then we can have several possible problems.

1)       If our list of necessary expectations is too long then we will spend our time searching for that perfect person who will have to meet every one of our expectations and so will be on an endless hunt.

2)       Even if our expectations are not that many some of them may still be highly unreasonable. We may have an expectation that less than one percent of the population can fulfill. If we can live with that then fine. But maybe instead of having to marry a millionaire settle for someone with financial stability. Maybe instead of someone who is drop-dead gorgeous choose someone whom you find attractive and forget about what anyone else thinks. Maybe instead of someone who is fanatically in love with cats settle for someone who likes cats and wants to have one. Be careful that some of your necessary expectations are not just vain desires. Athletes, celebrities, the gorgeous, the powerful, or the rich may not make the best husband or wife for you.

3)       We can carry unmet expectations into a deep relationship or marriage that may, ultimately, lead to great disillusionment, anger, frustration, and possibly divorce.

We must all be diligent to be careful not to make these mistakes. We need to understand what we want and expect from a relationship.

Our expectations belong to us only. We should never try and force, intimidate, or threaten people to be what we want them to be. The most that we should do is to help them to be what God wants them to be. Anyone who moves in that direction will be a better friend or mate anyway.


You have a problem with anger if you:

·         Often yell or raise your voice to get your way or force your opinion on others

·         Seethe for days, weeks, or even longer at the least slight or inconvenience

·         Use foul language in an argument

·         Insult and belittle the person with whom you are in disagreement

·         Use physical violence such as hitting, pushing, or squeezing

·         Try to intimidate person with your physical presence such as backing them against a wall, making a fist, or looming over them

·         Become mad at the slightest provocation

·         Slam doors, throw things, stomp around the room, turn music on really loud or similar acts


An example of a Biblical relationship—Jonathan and David

        History and literature have produced countless examples of great relationships where we can find much to emulate. But perhaps the greatest of them all was between a king’s son and shepherd who would one day sit on the throne.

        Saul was the king of Israel and was Jonathan’s father. When Saul died Jonathan would have been the rightful heir to the throne. But Saul had a madness that was soothed by music. David became known to the king’s courts by slaying the Philistine giant Goliath. He was also an accomplished musician and was brought in to play the harp for King Saul. Eventually David conquered many of the King’s enemies and the people’s hearts went for David. This enraged Saul and eventually Saul spent much of his time and energy trying to kill David. Saul also tried to turn Jonathan’s heart against David because he knew that David was the people’s choice to become king instead of his son.

        In all of this time Jonathan and David became great friends and what we can learn from their friendship can strengthen and deepen our own relationships. In this story we will see tremendous sacrifice, selflessness, encouragement, and support. These were not cardboard characters. They were not myths or examples that God made up. These were real people who did exactly what the Bible records about them. If we lived back then we could have seen them together, we could have heard their conversations, and we could have seen the affect that each had on the other.


1 Samuel 18:1

“… the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, Jonathan loved him as himself.”


Why did God word this verse this way? Why did He not just say, “Jonathan was knit to David”? Or “Jonathan and David were very close”? In the Bible the word “soul” has several senses to its meaning. In its broadest meaning it denotes the very life and essence of a person. When people were counted for a census, the Bible says that they were counted as souls, that is, as persons (Exodus 1:5 and Deuteronomy 10:22). So, in this sense, the soul means the very person himself. God evens refers to “My soul” as another way of referring to Himself. Thus when God speaks of His soul He is summing up all that characterizes Himself in His love, holiness, wrath, faithfulness and so on.

In a narrower sense the soul denotes man in all of his varied emotions and inner powers. A person’s soul contains his desires and his emotions. In the Bible the soul is said to weep (Job 30:16), to have patience (Job 6:11), to have knowledge and understanding (Psalm 139:14), thought (1 Samuel 20:3), love (1 Samuel 18:1), and memory (Lamentations 3:20). In today’s language we would say that the soul is our personality or ego.

In the New Testament, “soul” is often translated as “life.” So we read that Jesus gave His soul as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28) and He laid down His soul for His sheep (John 10:14).

So to say that “the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David” is to say far more than “Jonathan was knit to David.” It meant that every part of Jonathan to his deepest emotions was intricately intertwined and woven to every part of David. They could be emotional with each other, they could share anything with each other and because their souls were knit or bound together it meant that one of them could not experience their emotions alone. The other one would surely feel and participate in those same emotions.

The result of this was that Jonathan loved David with a total and uninhibited love; he “loved him as himself.” To love someone with the love that you have for your own self is the greatest love that you can have. It is a love that sacrifices. John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” It is a love that looks away from self and onto others. Philippians 1:3-4, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”

We will never love another person as completely as we might until we are willing knit our souls to theirs. This takes sacrifice. This takes work. This kind of relationship is one of vulnerability. It means being willing to be deeply hurt. This is a challenge to each one of us. You might ask yourself:

·         Am I willing to share my deepest emotions with another person?

·         Am I willing to be vulnerable?

·         Am I willing to hold nothing back?

·         Am I willing to intertwine my emotions with someone else so tightly that I will hurt with their hurt and feel their joy when they rejoice?

·         Am I willing to take my eyes off of my needs and desires so that I might fulfill their needs and desires first?

And are you willing to do this with someone who is less than perfect?


1 Samuel 18:3-4

“Then Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, including his sword and his bow and his belt.”


Of all of the things that Jonathan could have given to David why did he give David these items and what did they symbolize? The robe was generally a very ornate piece of clothing that was usually only wore by the most wealthy and powerful people. In Ezekiel 26:16 foreign princes were often notable for their luxurious embroidered garments. So by giving David his robe, Jonathan was saying that my wealth and power and prestige are yours. Use them in any way that you see fit.

Armor, of course, was used for protection. By giving David his armor Jonathan was making himself vulnerable and, therefore, proving his trust in David as an equally caring friend.

The sword was generally a short, two-edged blade used for close in fighting by using quick jabs and thrusts. By giving David his sword, Jonathan was ensuring to David that he would not attack him or in any way personally hurt or offend him when they were together.

The bow was a long-range weapon. Oftentimes the person who was killed by an arrow never saw the person who fired it. It was almost an anonymous attack; the archer knew whom he was attacking but the victim never saw it coming. So by giving David his bow, Jonathan was saying to David that David never had to fear that Jonathan would talk about him behind his back or slander him or gossip about him. Jonathan would never blindside David.

The belt was a fabric, usually leather, linen or wool folded to around five inches in width. It was used to carried coins, knives or food. On a journey or when work was being done, the undergarment was often tucked around the belt. In Jeremiah 13 it symbolized usefulness, faithfulness, and loyalty. And in Isaiah 11:3 it symbolized righteousness and faithfulness. So, in the Bible, the belt did more than just hold up someone’s trousers. It symbolized usefulness, righteousness and faithfulness. So by giving David his belt, Jonathan was in essence telling David that he wanted to be useful to him and that he would be faithful and loyal to him.

So by picking these particular items Jonathan was telling David

·         That David had all of Jonathan’s wealth and power for his use.

·         That Jonathan left himself vulnerable to David and trusted him to return due care.

·         That Jonathan would never hurt or offend David.

·         That Jonathan would never talk wrongly about David to others.

·         And that David had Jonathan’s full usefulness, faithfulness, and loyalty.

These are vital keys to right relationships. Jonathan did not just pledge his friendship; he wanted to prove it and to give David confidence that he really meant it. Jonathan did not just pledge generalities; he pledged specifics. And by doing so, he told David that he was David’s faithful and trustworthy friend.


1 Samuel 19:1-3

“Now Saul told Jonathan his son and all his servants to put David to death. But Jonathan, Saul's son, greatly delighted in David. So Jonathan told David saying, ‘Saul my father is seeking to put you to death. Now therefore, please be on guard in the morning, and stay in a secret place and hide yourself. And I will go out and stand beside my father in the field where you are, and I will speak with my father about you; if I find out anything, then I shall tell you.’”


That word “delighted” has the idea of giving or of wanting to improve the other’s person’s life. We can see that in 2 Samuel 22:20 where it says, “He [God] also brought me forth into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me.”

Here, Jonathan had to take sides. There was the king, his father, who was wealthy and powerful and from whom he could ask for and get anything. On the other side was David who was a shepherd boy, not terribly wealthy and who probably did not have much in the way of wealth or power to give to Jonathan.

So whom did Jonathan choose? He could have set David up, had him killed and been the hero. Instead, he chose loyalty and friendship over immediate reward.

When you are forced to take sides, do you choose the most popular or the best looking or the richest or the most powerful? Or do you choose loyalty? Are you willing to shun the immediate reward for the sake of a friend? Are you willing to help someone out of a tight jam even at the possibility of your own personal expense?


1 Samuel 19:4-5

“Then Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father, and said to him, ‘Do not let the king sin against his servant David, since he has not sinned against you, and since his deeds have been very beneficial to you. For he took his life in his hand and struck the Philistine, and the LORD brought about a great deliverance for all Israel; you saw it and rejoiced. Why then will you sin against innocent blood, by putting David to death without a cause?’”


Here we read how Saul was speaking ill of David. Jonathan had three choices. 1) He could have taken the easiest route and agreed with Saul. 2) He could have simply ignored the comments or changed the subject. 3) He could defend David. Which one did Jonathan choose? He chose the third; he defended David and notice how he defended him.

1)       He pointed out to Saul that Saul’s attitude was wrong or potentially wrong (“Do not let the king sin…”).

2)       He pointed out to Saul that David had done nothing wrong to him (“he has not sinned against you”).

3)       He pointed out to Saul that David had been helpful to him (“his deeds have been very beneficial to you”).

4)       He gave specifics to prove his points (“he took his life in his hand and struck the Philistine…”).

5)       What David did was right (“the LORD brought about a great deliverance for all Israel”).


Nothing kills gossip faster than turning around and speaking well of the person. If you do not appreciate someone putting down a friend of yours then say something good about the person. Nothing douses the hot coals of gossip better than the cool water of a good report. Be willing to stand up for and defend a friend.


1 Samuel 19:6-7

“And Saul listened to the voice of Jonathan, and Saul vowed, ‘As the LORD lives, he shall not be put to death.’ Then Jonathan called David, and Jonathan told him all these words. And Jonathan brought David to Saul, and he was in his presence as formerly.”


What was the result of Jonathan’s defense of David? Even Saul, whose heart was so filled with loathing towards David, relented and was willing to reconcile. Jonathan worked hard to reconcile his friend to someone who hated him. True friendship does not take the attitude that rifts between two other people are their own business and so let them fight it out. True friendship seeks a solution and tries to bring those people together in harmony.

Jonathan did not say to Saul, “Well, obviously, you and David have to work some things out. Call me when it’s over.” No, he made an effort. He worked as a middleman or mediator.

We read in 1 Timothy 2:5 how God did this for us, “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” A mediator is someone who resolves or settles differences by acting as an intermediary agent between two conflicting parties. This is what Christ did. This is what God wants us to do likewise. Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

When you find yourself in the middle of a conflict do you duck and run? Do you bow out and wait until the dust settles before returning? Do you jump into a front row seat to watch the cat fight? Or do you get involved in trying to promote reconciliation? Are you willing to be a mediator?


1 Samuel 20:1-2

“Then David fled from Naioth in Ramah, and came and said to Jonathan, ‘What have I done? What is my iniquity? And what is my sin before your father, that he is seeking my life?’ And he said to him, ‘Far from it, you shall not die. Behold, my father does nothing either great or small without disclosing it to me. So why should my father hide this thing from me? It is not so!’”


Jonathan was a friend that David could share his troubles with. He was able to pour his heart out to Jonathan. He was able to talk to him about his confusion and his anxieties. David knew that Jonathan would be patient and not condemning.

Are you the type of friend that people are able to open up to? How can you be like this?

a)       By learning to patiently listen.

b)       By asking questions to draw out that person and to show that you are truly interested in their life.

c)       By showing with your body language that you really do care. For example, do not look past them as they are talking to you. Do not have a far off look as though you are thinking about who is going to win the game this weekend. Look at them. Focus on them. Give them your full attention.

d)       By being trustworthy with the information that they tell you; i.e., do not tell this to others no matter how juicy it is.

e)       By asking them about the situation later. That may be later that night or the next day or next week, but follow up with the situation.

f)        Make an effort, if possible, to find some kind of solution if they come to you with a problem. Even if that means doing nothing more than praying with them.


Jonathan did not use this meeting as an excuse to talk about himself. When David shared his anxiety with Jonathan, Jonathan did not listen for a bit and then jump right in with his own troubles. He did not say, “Well you know what happened to me? I was sitting at the table and my own father tried to run me threw with a spear.” Nor did Jonathan come back with a “I know exactly what you are going through because I…”

When people share their troubles with you

a)       Do not see it as an opportunity to turn it around and talk about yourself.

b)       Do not necessarily try and relate to their situation especially if you cannot. If someone is suffering through the tragic loss of a relative do not say, “You know, I can sort of relate because I once had this goldfish that I really loved and then one day I came home and there he was on the top of the water.”

c)       Listen, listen, listen.

d)       If you can truly relate or if you can share something from your own life that will help them then do so.

e)       Always offer your loyalty and support.


David did not use his own problems as an excuse to make Jonathan his whipping boy. Here was David, he was adored by the multitudes. By killing Goliath he saved his nation from possible conquest by the Philistines. He was being persecuted not because he did something wrong but because of someone else’s envy and jealousy. He was being chased like a rabbit though a harsh and lifeless wilderness while a king and his army were trying to kill him. Can any of us relate to this? –Probably not. Yet when we are going through far less trials do we ever have the tendency to take out our frustrations on our close friends or relatives? This is wrong. David never once lashed out at Jonathan. He never once treated him poorly. If you have the habit of kicking people who are loyal to you just because you are frustrated then you must repent and stop that behavior.


1 Samuel 20:3

“Yet David vowed again, saying, ‘Your father knows well that I have found favor in your sight, and he has said, “Do not let Jonathan know this, lest he be grieved.” But truly as the LORD lives and as your soul lives, there is hardly a step between me and death.’”


In verse two Jonathan said that he thought that his father, Saul, did not really want to kill David and that his attacks only occurred during his times of madness. David knew, however, that Saul’s attacks were more than fits of temporary insanity. He knew that Saul’s heart was first envious and then fearful and that Saul’s solution to these feelings was to eliminate David.

Here we see that Jonathan and David’s friendship was well known. It was not hidden; it was not kept in a box. It was nothing to be ashamed of. We should not be ashamed of our friendships either even if they might be to our potential detriment.


1 Samuel 20:4

“Then Jonathan said to David, ‘Whatever you say, I will do for you.’”


Jonathan was willing to do whatever it took for his friend David. He did not weigh the perils to his own life. He did not weigh out his lose of power or his loss of riches or go off someplace and ponder, “Is this worth it?” He was loyal.

In Philippians 2:5-7 we read, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” Why did Jesus Christ empty Himself? It was solely for the purpose that God could have a relationship with us. God Himself placed no limits on the sacrifices to be made for a friendship.


1 Samuel 20:27-29

And it came about the next day, the second day of the new moon, that David's place was empty; so Saul said to Jonathan his son, ‘Why has the son of Jesse not come to the meal, either yesterday or today?’ Jonathan then answered Saul, ‘David earnestly asked leave of me to go to Bethlehem, for he said, “Please let me go, since our family has a sacrifice in the city, and my brother has commanded me to attend. And now, if I have found favor in your sight, please let me get away that I may see my brothers.” For this reason he has not come to the king's table.’”


Once again we see here where Jonathan defended David and protected him. We must continue to remember that these were real people struggling with the unknown results of their choices.

When our friends are being maligned, God does not want us to be silent. But notice that in defending David, Jonathan did not attack Saul. Defending one person does not necessarily mean attacking the other. If you are defending someone, do not start out with, “Well, look at you…” or “You’re one to talk” or “You’re not exactly perfect yourself.” Learn to be gracious even in the midst of sin.


1 Samuel 20:33

“Then Saul hurled his spear at him [Jonathan] to strike him down; so Jonathan knew that his father had decided to put David to death.”


Jonathan stuck by his friend even to his own possible hurt.


1 Samuel 20:34

“Then Jonathan arose from the table in fierce anger, and did not eat food on the second day of the new moon, for he was grieved over David because his father had dishonored him.”


Jonathan had deep feelings for his friend David. His was not a utilitarian friendship. It was not one where the friendship only existed for what they could get from each other. Good friends allow themselves to feel deeply. They are willing to express those emotions.


1 Samuel 20:41

“When the lad was gone, David rose from the south side and fell on his face to the ground, and bowed three times. And they kissed each other and wept together, but David more.”


David showed humility towards his friend and he acknowledged with gratitude all that Jonathan had done for him. Do you ever take your friends for granted or do you appreciate what they do for you? Do you thank people for what they do for you or do you act as though they are rendering service due to you?


1 Samuel 20:42

“And Jonathan said to David, ‘Go in safety, inasmuch as we have sworn to each other in the name of the LORD, saying, “The LORD will be between me and you, and between my descendants and your descendants forever.”’ Then he rose and departed, while Jonathan went into the city.”


Despite all of the problems, they still reaffirmed their loyalty to each other. They never wondered if their relationship was too much trouble. Are you willing to verbalize your loyalty to another person? Sometimes it is not enough just to show it. People need to hear it also.

Ultimately, their relationship was centered on God. They trusted that by doing right God would bring them through the tumultuous times. They trusted in the promises of God. The strength of their relationship was bound up in their commonality of the things of God.

Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, “And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.” This verse is usually used in the context of marriage, but it is also true for friendships. Who is “him”? Many would say that this is the devil. One person will have a difficult time not being deceived by the devil. Two people will be able resist the devil, but the implication is that it will be difficult and that, eventually, they might be split apart. But if there is the third person of God, then that union will stand strong.

Your strongest and most secure relationships should be with fellow Christians. That is not to say that your relationships with non-Christians should be abandoned. But a relationship humbly based on God should be able to stand the test of storms.


1 Samuel 23:16-18

“And Jonathan, Saul's son, arose and went to David at Horesh, and encouraged him in God. Thus he said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, because the hand of Saul my father shall not find you, and you will be king over Israel and I will be next to you; and Saul my father knows that also.’ So the two of them made a covenant before the LORD; and David stayed at Horesh while Jonathan went to his house.”


This is the last meeting that Jonathan had with David. We can see several points here.

Jonathan knew that David was potentially discouraged. David had been running all over the wilderness hiding from Saul. Jonathan did not wait for David to call him; instead, he went to David. When you know that someone is struggling, do not wait for him to come to you. Even if it is inconvenient, go to him.

Jonathan went to be an encouragement. He did not go to share in a pity-party. He did not go and agree with David about how rough his life was, “I know how hard it is David. You’re running all over this miserable wilderness. You’re dirty. You’re hungry. You’re tired. You have every right to be miserable.” No, he went to be an encouragement, not to agree with his misery.

He got David to look to the future; not to wallow in the present.

Even though Jonathan was next in line to be king he willingly acknowledged David’s right to the throne and his own willingness to be subservient. He exemplified Philippians 2:3, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself.”

He reiterated his loyalty to David.

They reaffirmed that the LORD was the center of their relationship.


2 Samuel 1:26

“I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; you have been very pleasant to me. Your love to me was more wonderful than the love of women.”


Finally, David heard that Jonathan was killed. That word “distressed” in the Hebrew means “to bind,” “to tie up,” “to be restricted or cramped.” You get this picture of David bent over on the ground in great sorrow. David was unashamed in expressing his emotions for his friend.

“Your love to me was more wonderful than the love of women” is a very strange phrase to our ears and some have used to it to conclude that their relationship was homosexual. This is completely wrong. David had a number of wives and a number of concubines and, as we read through the Scriptures, we do not seem to find him particularly attached to any of them. Many of his marriages were for political reasons and his wives and concubines did not seem to show much loyalty to him. It may be possible to say that none of them were what we would think of as the traditional loving union between two people. But his relationship to Jonathan was different. It might well have been the most honest, intimate, and loyal relationship that David had and thus he could say that Jonathan loved him more than anyone else ever did.


2 Samuel 9:1

“Then David said, ‘Is there yet anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan's sake?’”


It was discovered that Jonathan had a son named Mephibosheth.


2 Samuel 9:9-11

“Then the king called Saul's servant Ziba, and said to him, ‘All that belonged to Saul and to all his house I have given to your master's grandson. And you and your sons and your servants shall cultivate the land for him, and you shall bring in the produce so that your master's grandson may have food; nevertheless Mephibosheth your master's grandson shall eat at my table regularly.’ Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants. Then Ziba said to the king, ‘According to all that my lord the king commands his servant so your servant will do.’ So Mephibosheth ate at David's table as one of the king's sons.”


This is a touching ending. Jonathan was gone, yet David still wanted to honor his memory and to bless those whom Jonathan would have wanted him to bless. David never forgot Jonathan and he blessed even the relatives of Jonathan in his honor.


We looked at one of the greatest friendships in all of history. What were some of the key characteristics of the deep friendship that Jonathan and David had for each other?

·         Willingness to sacrifice

·         Loyalty

·         Defending the other’s reputation

·         Trying to reconcile other broken relationships

·         Allowing yourself to be vulnerable

·         Allowing yourself to feel emotions towards that person

·         Not being ashamed of the friendship

·         Being there for that person when they are struggling

·         Listening to that person

·         Trying to be an encouragement to that friend

·         Blessing the friends and relatives of your friend


All of these things and more were exhibited in the relationship that Jonathan and David had for each other. This is the type of relationship that we should strive for and by God’s grace we, too, can have a David in our lives. But first we must be willing to be a Jonathan.


You are bitter if you:

·         Find yourself always on the edge of being angry

·         Are critical of everything and find yourself easily vocalizing it

·         Do not care what you say to people and how it might affect them

·         Take every inconvenience personally as though everyone is out to make your life miserable

·         Expect everyone to do what you want and then get mad if they are unable

·         Are unable to maturely discuss a disagreement but must rant and rage

·         Constantly fume because you think that everyone is always stepping on you

Copyright Bob La Forge 2011        email: