Developing Great Relationships

Our Design and Purpose —- Why do Relationships Affect Us so Much?


Our Design and Purpose—Why do Relationships Affect Us so Much?


So here it is the day of the big dinner. He is coming over to my place, it will be just the two of us, and I am cooking… the entire meal… from scratch. To say that I want it to go perfectly is too mild. I want to make an impression like an 18-wheeler running over a tomato.

To choose the entrée I decided rather quickly not to make something whose name rhymes. That eliminated Grand Bran Burgers, Jerky Turkey Casserole, and Wikiwiki Yumiyumi. I mean, how could I approach the candle-lit table dressed in my best casual outfit with this tantalizing look on my face and announce, “Our piece d’ Resistance is Beanie-Weanie Casserole”? Unfortunately that also winnowed out Surf ‘n Turf but I must stand on my principles. Then I deleted dishes with descriptive words in them. Nothing “chunky,” “creamy,” “deviled,” or “fantastic.”

I finally settled on Filet Mignon Stefanie Blais. This name works on several levels. For one it is incomprehensible. Is Stefanie Blais the name of the person who created it? Is it the ingredients? Incomprehensible means mysterious. It implies something beyond our feeble, pedestrian experience. It also sounds French. Therefore, it is perfect. Never mind that it involved stuffing Filet Mignon with chopped shrimp and mushrooms and encasing the whole thing in puff pastry. Even someone swinging with their eyes closed at a Nolan Ryan fastball can occasionally hit a homerun—right?

So I worked on the entrée. I watched those chefs on TV whose fingers fly like a pianist as they chop-up the vegetables. My fingers moved like bored turtles. I cut the mushrooms into pieces exactly 1/16th of an inch wide. Surgeons would have gasped in envy.

I have 72 reasons, 65 of them backed up by Scripture verse, as to why I should use a packaged store-bought Bernaise Sauce rather than make it from scratch, but do I listen to myself? –No! “A homemade sauce will taste so much fresher and livelier,” I convinced myself. I did find a recipe for Mock Bernaise Sauce but somehow I took that as being too personal.

The hour was approaching quickly and my preparations were coming slowly. The homemade sauce stuck to the bottom of the pan and will mostly likely taste like burnt books. The puff pastry puffed and then apparently collapsed back in exhaustion. With foresight approaching blindness I put the green beans in a streamer and topped them with my homemade butter/herb sauce only to find the sauce merrily gracing the boiling water beneath the steamer…and the beans.

There was a knock on the door. I did not even have time to leap down the fire escape and get takeout. As he sat at the table I placed the disaster before him. I even doubled up on the garnish as a distraction. I sat down and forced every muscle in my neck to keep my head from falling into the watery mashed potatoes and weeping.

He cut off a piece of steak. I smiled like a wax figure. He put it into his mouth. I clenched my teeth. He spoke, “This is perfect.”


Relationships will affect us in ways that nothing else will: not finances, not our health, not even our career. Sure, these things can create a tremendous yearning and drive in our lives and, if they fail, produce a catastrophe that can send us reeling. But somehow they never seem to cut as deeply and terribly as relationships can. Twenty years after the fact it would be unusual to hear someone say, “I still can’t believe that I lost my job back then.” But after those same twenty years it would not be so unusual to hear someone say, “I still can’t believe that he did that to me.” I know someone who, after 60 years, is still mad at an aunt because the aunt did not buy her an ice cream cone when she was little.

        Why is this? Why do relationships affect us this way? It is because God created us to have relationships. Genesis 2:18 says, “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone.’” The very first thing that God said that was not good in what was an otherwise perfect world was that man lacked relationships with other people.

The Bible from Genesis chapter one to Revelation chapter 22 is primarily about one thing and that is about relationships. Everything else is merely a subset of this. In Genesis 1 right after man and woman were created we read an amazing sequence in verses 27 and 28, “… He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them...”: creation, blessing, and then immediately personal interaction. Then 1189 chapters later we come to the last quote in the Bible. Revelation 22:20 is from Jesus, “Yes, I am coming soon.” We see God’s promise of coming to be more intimate with us.

What is the affect of sin in Isaiah 59:2? “But your sins have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear you.” Sin breaks that relationship between God and us. What is one of the greatest benefits of salvation? In Ephesians 1:5 it says, “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.” We are now part of God’s family. Why should we strive to make peace with others and between others? Because it says in Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” Again we see relationship. God forgives us of our sins so that we might have fellowship with Him (1 John 1:9). God saved us not merely to snatch us from Hell but primarily to draw us to Himself. As you study through the Epistles you can read all of the things that God has done for us and what He has made us into. Yet you cannot escape noticing how it all relates back to His relationship with us.

Our relationship first to God

Our primary relationship must be first to God and then, out of that, flows our relationship to others. Our relationship to God is not like a dummy to its ventriloquist but, rather, is like a child to her nursing mother. How are we to address God in “The Lord’s Prayer”? —“Our Father.” We are told to get God’s attention when we pray not by the name of one of His attributes or by some eloquent description of His greatness or majesty, although that has its place. But, rather, we are asked to address God based on His relationship to us. And notice that this relationship is not one of emotional distance such as a worker and his boss or a student and a teacher but, instead, is one of the most intimate and caring relationships that we as humans can fathom: that of a parent and his child.

We are created in the image of God and thus we have been endowed with aspects of God’s nature such as wisdom, love, justice, holiness, mercy, and patience. A key aspect of God designing us similar to Himself is that we can have a personal and endless relationship with Him. That we have similar natures draws us to each other. We see this principle throughout creation: Lions form a pride, fish swim in schools, and ants live in colonies. Whereas all the rest of creation has only one type that they are similar to—their own species—we are unique because there are two types that we are similar to and, therefore, can form deep relationships with: other people (individually and in community) and God.

Many times in Scripture God uses the most intimate descriptions possible to describe His affinity of us.

Isaiah 49:15, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.” Here God says that His intimacy for us exceeds even that of a nursing mother for her child.

Isaiah 49:16, “Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me.” Into those same hands that nails so brutally pierced were written our names. Even if we forget about God, He only has to look into His hands to be reminded of us.

1 Corinthians 6:19, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” The Holy Spirit does not merely surround us but He dwells within us. We do not have to be satisfied to say, “God is in this place!” We can say, “God is in me!”

        2 Corinthians 6:18, “’And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,’ says the Lord Almighty.” When we get saved we do not become God’s slaves; we become His children.

        Revelation 19:7, “Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” The church is the bride of Christ.

        God does not merely watch over us and take care of our needs like a child might with an ant farm but, rather, He yearns for a depth of intimacy.

When God became a man in the form of Jesus Christ He did not come mysteriously out of the wilderness and then aloofly stand in the marketplace and teach rules and theology. God first became a baby, which had a relationship with His parents.

Luke 2 is the first recorded words of Jesus. His parents had gone to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover when He was twelve and when they left the city they mistakenly thought that Jesus was in the caravan with them. When they realized that He was not, they went back to Jerusalem to search for Him. They finally found Him in the Temple and chided Him for worrying them. Verse 49 says, “And He said to them, ‘Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father's house?’” Here we see Jesus defining Himself not by sharp and unequivocal dogma but by His relationship to God in Heaven.

A key part of Jesus’ ministry was the people that He formed relationships with. He had His three closest disciples: Peter, James, and John. He had His twelve disciples whom He spent a lot of time with. Then He had other friends such as Martha, Mary and Lazarus. All through His ministry He interacted with real individuals and solved real problems.

He did not whoosh into a city, do a blackboard seminar and then whoosh back out into the night by Himself. You did not hear anyone say, “Who was that masked man?” In His 33 years Jesus developed close relationships. People wept when He died. They visited His tomb to pay their respects. And they rejoiced greatly when He came back to life not just because He was proof of some miracle but because their friend, Jesus Christ, was now back amongst them.

The Bible from the beginning to the end is primarily about one thing and that is God bringing us back to Himself.


You respond wrongly to correction or reproof if you:

·         Refer to anonymous “other” people who agree with you (“Other people also say that you…”)

·         Try to defer your own sin by accusing the person of being an instigator or troublemaker or agitator

·         Ignore your wrong by turning the argument around (“You’re a sinner, too” or “And you think that you’re perfect” or “Look at what you do wrong. Just the other day…”)

·         Make a sweeping attack (“A good Christian wouldn’t have said what you said” or “You call yourself a Christian?”)

·         Deflect responsibility because of some condition (“I’m too old (or sick or have too many other problems) for this nonsense”)

·         Interrupt constantly so that the other person cannot properly state their case

·         Drown out the other person by raising your voice or shouting

·         Hang up if it is a phone call or walk away if in person

·         Make threats (“I’m going to take this to the pastor if you keep it up” or “Our friendship is going to be permanently ruined if you don’t leave me alone.”)

·         Hide the rebuke in a landfill (“I guess that I can’t do anything right” or “So why don’t you just pile it on.”)

·         Call the other person names (“You’re just being stupid again” or “You’re such a crybaby” or “This just proves how much of a loser you really are.”)


Our relationship to others

        Mark 12:28-31 says, “And one of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, ‘What commandment is the foremost of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The foremost is, “HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.” The second is this, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’”

        Love consists of two pillars: God and others. We are commanded to stand with one foot on each of these pillars. If we choose to lift one of our feet off of either of these pillars then we are forced to balance on the other pillar on one foot. And, although it is a strain and tiring, we can maintain that position for a while. But eventually we will weaken and topple. We cannot ignore God and expect our other relationships to succeed nor can we despise others and think that our intimacy with God will not suffer. 1 John 4:19 (“We love, because He first loved us”) tells us that the first is true. God’s love is primary and we can only love others when we access His love. 1 John 4:20 tells us that the latter is true, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.” Only when our feet are solidly on both pillars of love are we able to stand with assuredness and confidence.

        Matthew 5:23-24 punches us with this principle and though many of us know what these verses are saying very few actually understand them enough to apply them. They read, “If therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.” Jesus spoke these verses in the Sermon on the Mount. Two spiritual activities are in conflict here. One is our relationship with another Christian and the second is making an offering or sacrifice to God. Guess which one God thinks is more important? It is the relationship. In our minds we may think, “As long as I’m going to church and reading my Bible and praying and giving money to the church that’s all that’s important. I’ll work out that sour relationship in it’s own good time.” But God says, “No! You work out that relationship right now. That’s the most important. Do not think that by doing these other things that you can excuse away that bitterness.” What does this passage tell us? Relationships are premium in God’s mind.


You have wrong self-esteem or a problem with self-pity or self-contempt if you:

·         Always put yourself down so that the other person won’t “beat you to it”

·         Feel that you have nothing to offer to other people

·         That you are hopeless and can never improve

·         Examine every person to see how they are better than you (and always succeed)

·         Never try anything new or daring because you are sure that you will always fail

·         Are convinced that people who befriend you only do so because they feel sorry for you

·         Constantly talk about yourself

·         Always need people to affirm you; you are too vulnerable to people’s opinions of you

·         Must try to get to get a laugh out of everything to the point where it is annoying

·         Think things such as, “I’m just such a loser that I can’t do anything right.” Or, “There I go again; what is wrong with me?”

·         Think of yourself as a total failure so that you can anticipate criticism

·         Avoid responsibility by saying; “I’m hopeless” or, “don’t give it to me because I mess everything up.”


God brings us back

Before the Fall God freely walked in the Garden with Adam and Eve. After the first sin God closed the Garden and drove Adam and Eve out of it and since then all of God’s dealings with us involve restoring us to that intimacy that He so desires.

In fact, the last few verses of the Bible are a yearning from each side to restore that perfect and wonderful relationship once again and forever. In Revelation 22:17 God longs to draw us closer to Himself when He says, “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.” And in Revelation 22:20 we return that same desire by saying, “Amen. Come Lord Jesus.”

        God created us with a tremendous need for Himself and for other people. Yes, God can satisfy our every need and desire directly, but He chooses not to. Instead, He prefers to allow others to meet many of those needs. Oftentimes He would rather that we be the conduit of His love and grace and mercy then to pour them out directly. Notice 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” Here we see that God can, and often does, comfort us directly in all of our affliction. But He also wants to use us to comfort others when they are suffering.

        When we neglect the fellowship of others we lose that part of God’s blessings that He chooses to pour out to us through others. And when we disdain other people then we lose being a source of God’s blessing to them. A car is used to transport people but if you use it for something else then it is probably going to waste. A watch tells us the time but if you let it wind down and stop then it too has been wasted. In the same way, we were created for relationships and if we do not have them both with God and with others then much of our lives will be wasted. We are only complete when we have those relationships. This is why substitutes for God or for people will never totally satisfy. A craving for power or popularity or alcohol or fame or possessions or lots of time in front of the TV or on the computer will never leave us fulfilled. These are small shapes that will fill some of the smaller gaps in our lives but the bigger hole for people and the biggest hole for God can only be satisfactorily filled by what they were created for. No other substitute will work.

We also have to be careful in our serving at church. No matter how diligently we may serve in how many numbers of ministries, if people are excluded then we have missed the mark. Busyness may give us a temporary sense of fulfillment but eventually we will feel empty and weary.


        So why is all of this important? It is because we must realize that God has built our emotions, our needs, our desires, our dignity and value, and all other aspects of what we are to successfully make and sustain good relationships. So when we neglect either God or other people or try to shape ourselves around something else we will be unfulfilled. It is our relationship with God that gives our lives true meaning and worth. That cannot come from a job title, a large bank account, or celebrity status. Oftentimes in our celebrity and sports hero driven society those whom we idolize are living lives out of control on drugs or alcohol. The most empty people will be those who pursue peopleless goals whereas the most satisfied people will be those who pursue God and other people.


You have a correct self-esteem if you:

·         Can make a mistake and not harshly condemn or belittle yourself

·         Know your weaknesses and can plan on improving them rather than using them to drag yourself down

·         Can brush aside an unjust attack on your character

·         Form your view of yourself by how God sees you

·         Are willing to take on responsibility and challenges

·         Can rejoice when someone does well and grieve when someone fails

Copyright Bob La Forge 2011        email: